Episode 2: Food for Thought - Egg Confusion

How did buying a carton of eggs become so confusing?

Should you choose hormone free, antibiotic free, preservative free, organic, intensive cage, free range or barn laid?

Would you be surprised to learn some of the above-mentioned claims – key selling points for eggs – are misleading or meaningless?

Read the Food Investigators eggsplanations.

HORMONE FREE This claim is meaningless. Hormones have been banned in egg production since the 1950s. No eggs in Australia contain hormones.

ANTIBIOTIC FREE Another meaningless claim. Any birds administered antibiotics by a vet are given a cooling-off period before returning to production. Tests have shown antibiotics do not get into the eggs anyway.

VITAMIN ENRICHED Similarly meaningless since ALL eggs are packed full of vitamins and minerals. In fact eggs contain all vitamins except vitamin C.

NO PRESERVATIVES or PRESERVATIVE FREE Both of these phrases are misleading. Eggs contain naturally occurring preservatives.

OMEGA-3 ENRICHED Egg producers have a genuine reason to use this phrase. Eggs with omega-3 have been laid by hens fed a special diet (containing omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E). Omega-3 fatty acids are good acids with positive health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be vital for the healthy brain and eye development of infants. They can also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimers disease and asthma. Eggs from different producers have different amount of omega-3. Check the nutrition panel for an estimate of how much is in a standard egg.

VEGETARIAN Vegetarian eggs are laid by birds fed a vegetarian diet – no meat or fish. Vegetarian eggs normally come from caged birds because the diet of free range hens can not be controlled as easily.

CAGE Most of the eggs sold in Australian supermarkets come from hens housed in wire cages. Each cage is allowed to hold five birds. The hens do not have much space – in fact the minimum floor area for each bird is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Birds in cage egg production normally have their beaks trimmed to prevent injuring other birds. Many cage egg producers label their eggs simply as “eggs” rather than identifying them as “cage” eggs.

FREE RANGE This phrase can be misleading. Free range means hens are housed in sheds but free to look for food outside during the day. Choice magazine reports many free range birds will never go outside because they will never find the shed door. Some sheds are as big as sporting fields with flocks containing up to 120 000 birds.

BARN LAID These eggs come from hens housed in sheds and allowed to move freely inside but not permitted outside.

ORGANIC Eggs which are certified organic from a certifying body come from hens allowed to free range on ground free from pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Did you know most people will eat between 13,000 and 14,000 eggs during the course of their lives?

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