S p e c ia l t y Eggs In an effort to meet consumer demand, egg Vegetarian Eggs producers have begun marketing vegetarian, organic, cage-free, free-range, fertile, in-shell Vegetarian eggs are produced by hens whose pasteurized, and nutrient-enhanced specialty feed is free of animal by-products. eggs. These eggs offer alternative choices to consumers with special needs and preferences. Aracauna Eggs Due to higher production costs, specialty eggs Aracauna eggs are from Aracauna chickens, Due to higher are usually more expensive than generic shell native to South America. Nutritionally, these eggs. bluish-green eggs are not much different from production costs, Since the nutrient content of an egg can be traditional white and brown eggs you might specialty eggs are changed only by altering the hen’s feed, spe- find at the local grocery store. Actually, even cialty varieties such as cage-free and organic though many consumers think these eggs are usually more eggs have the same nutritional value as generic lower in cholesterol, eggs from this breed have varieties. Nutritionally-enhanced varieties a higher cholesterol content. expensive than such as omega-3 enriched eggs provide higher levels of certain nutrients because these nutri- Pasteurized Shell Eggs generic shell eggs. ents are enhanced in the hens’ feed. Nutrient Pasteurized shell eggs are a good choice for content cannot be altered by changing envi- people who want to use raw eggs in recipes ronmental conditions. that do not require further cooking, such as homemade ice-cream or Caesar salad dressing. Currently there are no set definitions for spe- These eggs have been heat treated to kill po- cialty eggs and consumers are advised to read tential salmonella bacteria found inside. (The labels before buying. risk of purchasing an egg contaminated with Organic Eggs salmonella bacteria is one in 20,000 eggs.) However, due to the heat processing, these In October 2002, the National Organic Stan- eggs may have slightly lower levels of heat- dard Board set national guidelines that must sensitive vitamins. be met by producers wishing to market “organic” eggs. (Specific organic standards Fertile Eggs may be found at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.) Some cultures consider fertile eggs a delicacy. Organic eggs are produced by hens given feed But aside from coming from a hen that has grown without most conventional pesticides, possibly mated with a rooster, there is no nu- fungicides, herbicides, or commercial fertiliz- tritional difference between fertile eggs and ers. The use of growth hormones is also pro- generic eggs. hibited by the new organic standards. Growth hormones are not used in commercial egg pro- Thoroughly cooking generic shell eggs until duction in the United States. Consumers can whites are firm and yolks are beginning to be confident that all eggs are hormone-free, thicken will also destroy any potential salmo- whether or not they are labeled as such. Na- nella bacteria in the egg. tional organic standards also prohibit the use of antibiotics. While antibiotics are sometimes Cage-Free Alternatives used to treat sick birds, this is not a routine 1050 17th St. NW, Suite 560 industry practice. Hens typically stop laying Most hens are housed in large laying facilities Washington, DC 20036 202-833-8850 Fax: 202-463-0102 eggs when ill. that use cage systems. This provides hens with optimal temperature, humidity, feed, water, 10/05 Specialty Eggs laying space, and security. Even though this since the birds tend to peck at and injure each housing method may seem to limit a hen’s other. The nutrient content of eggs from freedom, it is actually designed for the welfare free-range and cage-free hens is the same as of the birds as well as for production effi- for those produced by hens housed in cages. ciency. In the hen house, the birds are more readily protected from the elements, from United Egg Producers Certified disease, and from both natural and unnatural Eggs predators (i.e. automobiles). Housing hens also makes it possible to control their diet Egg producers have also begun implementing which results in better-fed hens that produce new animal welfare standards that improve higher-quality eggs. Egg producers are also the care and handling of egg-laying hens. phasing in larger cages or allowing more space These standards were developed by an inde- to house the birds. However, for consumers pendent scientific advisory committee made who object to housing hens in cages, alterna- up of scientists from government agencies, tive choices are available such as free-range academia, and the US Humane Association. and cage-free eggs. These guidelines, adopted by the United Egg Producers (UEP), assure that United Egg Pro- Free-range eggs come from hens that are ei- ducers Certified Eggs come from hens living ther raised outdoors or have access to the out- in humane conditions with attention to living doors. Due to seasonal conditions, however, environment, health care, and treatment. (Egg few hens are actually raised outdoors and ac- producers participating in the UEP Certified cess to outdoors can vary greatly between pro- program are audited annually by a third party ducers. organization. For more information, see www.uepcertified.com) When you purchase Cage-free eggs come from hens living in in- UEP Certified eggs, you can be sure that ani- door floor facilities. These hens do not neces- mal welfare and health were important factors sarily have access to the outdoors. They usu- considered in producing the eggs. ally live on the floor of a barn or poultry house. Mortality rates are higher in hens liv- ing in free-range and cage-free environments Nutrient-Enhanced Eggs Commercially raised hens are fed specially health benefits associated with this fatty acid. Where to Buy formulated feed that consists of corn, cotton- Higher vitamin E content is an additional Specialty Eggs seed, soybean meal, and/or sorghum— benefit of omega-3 enriched eggs. depending on which grain is most affordable. Most large grocery Sometimes animal by-products are also added stores carry specialty to increase protein content. The feed is care- eggs. They can usu- fully balanced by a poultry nutrition specialist ally be found in the to combine the right amounts of protein, fat, dairy section next to carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. By the generic shell adding certain ingredients to the feed, some eggs. For more infor- producers are enhancing the nutrient content mation about spe- of their eggs. cialty eggs, check Omega-3 our website Lutein (www.enc-online.org/ By including flax, marine algae, or fish oils in links.htm). Specialty the feed, omega-3 fatty acid content in egg Eggs from birds raised on a diet that includes egg companies can yolks can be dramatically increased. These marigold extract are high in lutein, a nutrient provide you with omega-3 fatty acid enriched eggs are a good that has been shown to reduce the risk of more detailed infor- choice for people who want to increase their macular degeneration (the leading cause of mation about their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, but do not blindness in people 65 and older.) According products. regularly eat fish. The demand for omega-3 to one study, lutein in eggs is better absorbed eggs is increasing as we learn more about the by the body than is lutein from other sources.