The Organic Egg Myth and Other Misleading Egg Labels
People are motivated to buy organic foods for many reasons, and the “certified organic” label aims to reassure consumers that they are indeed buying healthy foods, free of toxic ingredients and sourced in an ethical manner. However, in the egg industry, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. The various labels on egg cartons are a source of confusion, yet the most misleading of them all is the organic egg.
Let’s start with the conventional white egg. The chickens that produce these eggs live in small cages. They do not roam free nor do they forage for food in a natural environment. These birds eat corn and grains mixed with animal by-products. Though often labeled “natural” or “fresh,” studies show these mass-produced eggs have a higher prevalence of salmonella due to the large number of hens in cramped cages.
The conventional hens’ diet and living conditions affect the nutritional content of the eggs they produce. If you were to crack open a conventional egg and compare it to a pasture-raised egg, you visibly see the difference: The conventional egg has a small yolk that is light yellow compared to the abundant bright orange yolk in the nutritional pasture-raised egg.
Organic Eggs: Buyers Beware
The organic label doesn’t necessarily mean healthier and here’s why: Farmers who label their eggs “organic” have to follow guidelines in order to use this label. The chickens must be cage-free with outdoor access, fed an organic diet free of pesticides, and be free of antibiotics and growth hormones; however, there are industry loopholes.
These chickens do live outside of small cages, but they are often kept in large, crowded enclosures. They’re not roaming spacious, grassy areas to find natural foods (insects and worms), and they are fed an unnatural grain-based diet, albeit organic and free of synthetic pesticides. Even the manner in which these eggs are sanitized is a gray area and the method is not transparent to buyers. Each state has its own cleaning regulations, and organic egg producers may use chemicals in the treatment process. Quite simply, the “organic” label doesn’t always reflect what buyers think they are getting.
WFP’s Take-Home Advice
At Wiseman Family Practice, we believe that healthy animals produce healthy foods, and eggs are no exception. We recommend that you avoid both conventional white eggs and organic eggs, and instead purchase eggs that are labeled “pasture-raised,” preferably from local sources or from local farmers’ markets. If this isn’t feasible, visit the egg scoreboard provided by The Cornucopia Institute: http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/. The scoreboard provides a wealth of knowledge about the most ethically and humanely sourced organic eggs on the market, which ones pass (or fail) as true certified organic with access to high-quality pastures/diet, and where to find them.
Watch our You Tube on our own experience at Rock Barn Ranch with pasture-raised chickens. It reveals the big picture and the gold standard of the egg industry: Chickens living stress-free in clean living conditions, roaming pastures, and hunting and foraging in a natural environment. It’s these types of environments that provide the best-tasting and most nutritional eggs for you and your family!
Sources and References:
“True” Free Range (Pasture-Raised) Chicken Eggs with Wiseman Family Practice. Retrieved March 22, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tn4gvcjpy8.
The Humane Society of the United States Calls on Iowa’s Egg Industry to Phase Out Cage Confinement of Hens, Strengthen Food Safety. humanesociety.org. Retrieved March 22, 2016 from http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2010/08/egg_recall_081910.html
Kelto, A. (2014, December 23) Farm Fresh? Natural? Eggs Not Always What They’re Cracked Up to Be. npr.org. Retrieved March 22, 2016 from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/23/370377902/farm-fresh-natural-eggs-not-always-what-they-re-cracked-up-to-be
Griffith, L. (2015, December 16). Millions of “organic” eggs are coming from industrialized farms seeking to capitalize on the “organic” name. blogs.naturalnews.com. Retrieved March 22, 2016 from http://blogs.naturalnews.com/millions-organic-eggs-coming-industrial-farms-seeking-capitalize-organic-name/
Organic Egg Scorecard. cornucopia.org. Retrieved March 22, 2016 from http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/