Types of Eggs
There are two basic types of eggs available in Alberta grocery stores:
i) eggs in their shell and
ii) eggs not in their shell (processed eggs).
1. Eggs in Their Shell
The most common are white and brown-shelled eggs. Identical in nutrient value, the only real difference between the two is the breed of hen they come from. White shelled eggs typically are from hens with white feathers (usually White Leghorns in Alberta), while brown shelled eggs are typically from hens with brown feathers.
Several specialty eggs are also available. These are:
Hens are fed a special feed having ingredients that were grown without pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizer. The nutrient content of these eggs is NO different than the nutrient content of conventional eggs. Organic eggs, like conventional eggs, contain no antibiotics or hormones. Look for a "certified organic" mark plus the name or number of the certifying body on the label, to help ensure you are getting what you are paying for.
Vegetarian (No Animal By Products)
Hens are fed a special feed containing ingredients of plant origin only. The nutrient content of these eggs is the same as that of conventional eggs.
These eggs are created by including 10-20% of flax in the hen's diet, which in turn, results in these eggs being higher in omega-3 fatty acids than conventional eggs. (Omega-3 fatty acids may help lower blood triglyceride levels. Keeping blood triglyceride at "healthy levels" has been shown to be good for heart health.)
These eggs are from hens fed a nutritionally-enhanced diet having higher levels of certain nutrients (eg. vitamin E, folate, lutein, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12). As a result, these eggs contain slightly higher amounts of nutrients.
Free Range/Free Run
They are not the same. Free-range eggs are those from hens who have access to nesting boxes, open floor space, perches and outdoor runs. Free run eggs, on the other hand, are from hens allowed to roam freely in an enclosed facility (barn). Producers have more work because egg safety and quality is more challenging to manage in both these situations since eggs can come in contact with droppings and dirt, as well as can be laid in many places making quick egg collection a challenge. The nutrient content of these eggs is NO different than the nutrient content of eggs of hens raised in conventional cage housing systems.
These eggs are those from hens who are raised in 'enriched' or 'colony' cage housing systems. These housing systems provide more space (both floor space and height) for the hens to move around, while also providing a variety of enrichments within the cage, which allow the hens to express an increased variety of natural behaviors. Enrichments include nesting boxes, perches, scratch pads and dust baths.
2. Eggs Not in Their Shell (Processed Eggs)
These are eggs which are broken in mass by special egg breaking machines, then pasteurized before being packaged in liquid, frozen or dried form. They often have added ingredients (e.g. preservatives, flavour, colour). This process allows for special formulations to be made (e.g. egg whites only). Liquid and frozen processed egg products are currently available in the regular egg case as well as the freezer section of larger grocery stores in Alberta. Dried eggs are found in some bulk food and specialty (eg. camping or other outdoor equipment) stores.
Which Type of Eggs Should I Buy?
As you can see, there are more kinds of eggs available than ever before. Yet, they all have one thing in common; they are all produced to the same high standards of cleanliness, quality and freshness. And, they are all a nutritious and delicious choice. Weigh the merits of each type of egg to decide which is best for you and your family.