Eggs can be a good source of protein, an easy last-minute or early morning meal and a key ingredient in plenty of baked goods. Eggs are also one place where buying organic can make a big difference. If you’re trying to improve your diet and eat more responsibly, make the switch from commercially produced eggs and reap the benefits of organic eggs. It’s an easy way to make your kitchen a healthier place in the new year.
Pasture-raised organic hens produce eggs that have 2/3 more vitamin A, three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene and twice the omega-3 fatty acids compared to commercially produced eggs, according to a study conducted by “Mother Earth News” and reported in the October/November 2007 issue. Make the switch to organic eggs, and you could more than double the nutritional value you get when you eat an egg.
Eggs are little protein powerhouses that tend to get a bad rap because they’re high in cholesterol, but organic eggs tend to have 1/3 less cholesterol than commercially raised eggs, according to “Mother Earth News,” making them a healthier choice. Even better: Organic eggs have 1/4 less saturated fat than commercially raised eggs, according to the “Mother Earth News” study. Reducing the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your everyday diet can decrease your risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart disease.
Eggs that come from chickens who’ve been fed organic food are less likely to have pesticide residue than commercially produced eggs. Trace amounts of pesticides can be particularly hazardous for children and pregnant women, so if you’re feeding people in those two categories, organic eggs may be a good choice. Eggs from organic chickens also come without added hormones or antibiotics, which some commercial farmers may use to treat poultry to increase their production.
Organic eggs may taste better–or at least “egg-ier”–than commercially produced eggs, according to a taste test done by the Cleaner Plate Club and cited in the Huffington Post. When tasters compared the flavors of organic eggs and commercially produced eggs, they noticed that organic eggs had a stronger flavor and color. Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/67236-benefits-organic-eggs/#ixzz1MIcGYIFn __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
For pregnant women and children, the benefits are worth the higher price. Kim Dennis — with her 2-, 4-, and 6-year-olds in tow — looked over the fruit at a Whole Foods Market in Atlanta. She picked up a pint of organic blueberries selling for $5.99. Nearby, conventionally grown ones went for $4.99. She put the organic berries in her basket. “I think it’s definitely worth paying more,” she says. “If they sit there and eat a whole pint of berries, that’s a lot of pesticides for their little bodies.” With shoppers like Dennis willing to plunk down 10%, 20%, sometimes even 100% more, organic food sales hit $10 billion in 2003, up from $178 million in 1980. Responding to the growing demand, mainstream grocers are stocking more organic produce, milk, baby food, and meats, while healthy-food chains such as Whole Foods have opened dozens of stores in the past five years. Food certified under U.S. Dept. of Agriculture regulations as organic must be produced without most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Antibiotics, growth hormones, and feed made from animal parts are also banned. Is organic worth the extra money? Research has yet to prove an adverse health effect from consuming the low levels of pesticides commonly found in U.S. food. But for the most vulnerable groups — children and pregnant women — going organic whenever possible for fruits and vegetables that carry the heaviest pesticide load makes sense. For organic meat, poultry, eggs, and milk, the direct health benefit is less clear. It might come down to your willingness to pay more to avoid supporting certain agricultural practices, such as antibiotic use in animals, which could promote resistant bacterial strains, or the use of growth hormones, which could prematurely wear down the animal. Even organic advocates say certain fruits and vegetables are probably not worth the premium. For example, at the Atlanta Whole Foods, organic bananas cost 78 cents a pound, 30 cents more than regular bananas. But there’s almost no health benefit to buying organic in this case, according to Charles Benbrook, technical director of the nonprofit Organic Center for Education & Promotion, founded with the support of the industry’s Organic Trade Assn. Any pesticide residue is probably discarded along with the peel. REPEAT OFFENDERS Other produce contains several times the amount of pesticides as the organic equivalents, and the residue can’t be peeled or washed away. Some 98% of the peaches tested by the USDA in 2002 showed evidence of at least one pesticide (www.ams.usda.gov/science/pdp). Other repeat offenders over the years include apples, strawberries, and pears — fruits children gobble as finger food. That’s worrisome given that contaminants pose the biggest risk to children and fetuses. Pesticides have been shown to cross the placenta during pregnancy, and a recent study by scientists at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health in New York found a link between pesticide use in New York apartments and impaired fetal growth. Another study, from the University of Washington in Seattle, found that preschoolers fed conventional diets had six times the level of certain pesticides in their urine as those who ate organic foods. And a 2003 report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention detected twice the level of some pesticides in the urine of children as in that of adults. Few doubt that high doses of pesticides can cause neurological or reproductive damage. With infant reproductive organs still forming and the brain developing through age 12, and with young livers and immune systems less able to rid bodies of contaminants, eating organic is more important for children and pregnant or breast-feeding women. But even then, the argument for some foods is less compelling. While 47% of the produce sampled by the USDA in 2002 had detectable pesticide residues, only 16% of grains and 15% of meat tested did. Most of the residues found in meat (almost always in the fat) were from long-banned chemicals like DDT, which remain in the environment and is not a problem organic farming methods can solve. Widespread use of antibiotics and growth hormones is a larger issue for those considering organic meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Here, the major health benefit to consumers is indirect. Antibiotic use in animals helps promote antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, explains Urvashi Rangan, director of eco-labels.org, a site developed by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. And while the U.S. Food & Drug Administration says the growth hormone used in cattle is virtually identical to what cows naturally produce, consumer groups such as Consumers Union argue that milk from treated cows has higher levels of a growth factor linked to increased cancer risk. With meat, a more recent concern is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. The disease spreads when cows ingest animal feed made with parts from dead animals. The human form of the illness, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, is believed to be caused by eating contaminated beef. It is always fatal. The risk of contracting the disease, however, is low. The U.S. has had only one confirmed case of mad cow disease, and the only American case of CJD involved a woman who contracted it in Great Britain. Whether to shell out more for organic beef will depend on your budget — and how seriously you take the threat of mad cow disease. Other ways to lower the odds include avoiding processed meats such as hot dogs and preground hamburger that might contain bits of brain or spinal cord and eschewing cuts sold with the bone, says Michael Hansen, a senior research associate at Consumers Union. The next product in line for organic certification is fish. The USDA is studying what such certification would involve. Remember that despite all the things you could worry about, America’s food supply is among the safest in the world. And organic or not, it’s still important for your children to eat their vegetables. By Carol Marie Cropper
|Discover the inner beauty of organic As consumers, we love clean, white uniformity. Just look at the store’s bread aisle. But when it comes to eggs, the beauty of mass-production is only shell deep. The perfect egg Individual organic eggs from your own chicken coops are as different from each other as your chickens are. Some have ridges, some aren’t very smooth, some are pointy on both ends. Some are white, but many are brown, tan, or blue. It’s not that mass-production eggs are more perfect, only that the “imperfect” ones get shunted off and ground into other foods. If you can see the beauty in variety, you’ll also discover a better-tasting egg. It only makes sense that a fresher egg tastes better. What could be fresher than lifting a hen, taking an egg or two, and heading for the kitchen? Fresh chicken eggs also have a thicker consistency, so they spread less in the pan and those sunny yolks don’t break. Factories are getting faster, but they will never be as fresh as your own chicken coop. Why do organic chicken eggs taste better? The answer there, too, lies in variety. Chickens love variety. They’ll eat grains, bugs, worms, snails, even dirt. That variety of diet leads to a rich, healthy egg with a vivid, sunset-yellow yolk. Factory chickens don’t have access to anything but the strictest, grow-quick gruel. The cost goes down, but so does flavor.|
Eggshells are surprisingly porous. Over time, natural flavors can slip out, and outside odors can seep in. If you ever stored your chicken eggs next to your onions, you learned that already. Keeping your chicken houses clean helps you avoid too much washing, which pushes water and soap into the egg. Factory chicken eggs get a chemical bath to make them shiny white, and you can taste that too. Factory-raised chickens also get a big dose of antibiotics, and those drugs end up in the chicken eggs. Over-consumption of antibiotics may render them less effective when you really need them. It’s comforting to eat an egg when you know exactly where the hen has been. Can a chicken egg be too fresh? The closer you are to the chicken, the better, with a couple of exceptions. When you peel a hard-boiled egg, you may notice a wispy membrane between the shell and the white. This membrane takes a few days to form after the chicken egg is laid, so a perfectly fresh egg, although delicious, may be harder to peel. There’s also a stringy, gloopy part of the egg white that helps keep the yolk centered in the chicken egg. It disappears after a week or so. Some picky chefs prefer to strain it out before making delicate, smooth custards or souffles. For the average egg-based meal, leave it in. It’s just part of the white, and it’s good for you.
According to Eggland’s Best, the American Egg Board, and several other organizations, organic eggs do not have any nutritional benefitsover commercially produced eggs. However, many consumers and organic advocates believe that there are many benefits of organic eggs, including a better taste and a healthier product.
Most organic eggs have a clean, fresh flavor and are good to use in a variety of recipes. They don’t need to be treated any differently from commercially produced eggs, and they should be stored the same way (in the refrigerator). There is a risk of salmonella contamination with organic eggs just as there is with conventional eggs, but the risk is likely lower because healthier birds have a smaller chance of laying salmonella-contaminated eggs. Still, you should use caution and understand the risks if you are planning to consume raw or undercooked organic eggs.