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Eggs...Why choose Organic?

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Article by Nu-Leaf - Kyeema Fanning & Petroula Kapsimallis

Before purchasing a carton of commercially produced hen eggs, the modern consumer must negotiate a confusing array of descriptions and labels, many of them designed to conceal the true nature of their production. There are barn eggs, cage eggs, free-range eggs, Omega 3 eggs, vegetarian eggs, and organically certified eggs. Most of them are available in a range of sizes such as medium, large, extra large and jumbo eggs.

Free Range Vs Organic

We are all moving away from buying caged, battery hen eggs. However, we are still being outsmarted by marketer's clever advertising and wording. Most of us choose free range where possible because we know how pooly battery hens are treated however do you know what free range actually means?
This is the free range definition regarding outside roaming Section 3 – Free Range Run.

3.1 The maximum stocking density must be sustainable and in any case not exceed 1,000 hens per hectare.

3.2 Hens must have unrestricted access to the free-range run during the daylight hours.

3.3 The area where the hens are permitted to range shall have adequate water provisions along with shade/wind/predator protection. Range must be capable of long-term sustainability with adequate natural ground cover. If vegetation disappears under adverse seasonal conditions then alternative natural foraging must be provided until ground cover can be re-established.

In my opinion this is still pretty average conditions and it does not mean that the hens are healthy, well fed and free from antibiotics.

Descriptions like omega 3 and vegetarian are used to emphasise some aspect of the hen’s diet. In the case of omega 3 the diet is usually supplemented with flaxseed meal or oil while vegetarian eggs suggest that no rendered or animal proteins are included. Dietary descriptions like these do not provide the consumer with additional information regarding the type of housing, and in some cases the hens will be caged. Barn laid is a confusing description which suggests the hens are uncaged. In all likelihood, the birds will be cramped inside sheds with no access to outdoor runs. Free-range eggs are laid by hens with the freedom to forage outdoors. While the ability to forage outdoors is highly desirable, these hens are usually provided with a supplementary diet of non-organic chicken pellets. This exposes them to a potential range of pesticide and agricultural chemical contaminants.

Certified organic eggs

Organic standards for egg production specify the types of feed, accommodation, and living conditions which are suitable for laying hens. While healthy hens require shelter for security and protection against the elements, they also benefit from the freedom to scratch and forage naturally outdoors. A clean, pollution free range provides a suitably varied natural diet, one that is rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.

To prevent the accumulation of pesticide and other agricultural chemicals, any supplementary feeds must be obtained from organically certified growers. Flock sizes are usually contained to one thousand birds or fewer, although the notion of this arbitrary limit has stirred controversy between various competing certification authorities.

In order to pass their inspections, organic egg producers must demonstrate commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of their hens. This includes the provision for humane culling of birds affected by parasites, skin and moulting disorders, or beak problems which disrupt normal feeding.

The consequence of a superior diet and lifestyle for these hens is most evident in the texture, taste, and colour of the eggs. To start with, the shell should be consistently thick, smooth, and bright in appearance. Once opened, the raw yolks glisten with a rich, warm colour, while the whites appear firm and clear.

While I think eggs are great for us, we need to consider what we are really buying and usually the quality is reflected in the price!

Is it safe to eat eggs regularly?

In the past it was thought that people should limit the number of eggs they eat because they contain dietary cholesterol. But it is now known that saturates – in which eggs are relatively low – are more influential in raising blood cholesterol than dietary cholesterol itself. Most of the studies showing eggs raising cholesterol levels were done using powdered eggs which contain oxidised or damaged cholesterol known as oxy-cholesterol, and this has a different effect in the body than pure fresh cholesterol. Other studies have shown that hard boiled eggs do not raise cholesterol levels in the majority of patients. A study done at the University of California found that the consumption of two hard boiled eggs daily did not increase cholesterol levels. Eggs can be health promoting as they contain high amounts of lecithin which has been proven to lower cholesterol and help keep it soluble so it does not form plaques in the blood vessels. Eggs are also high in the sulphur bearing amino acids taurine, cysteine and methionine which are required by the liver to regulate bile production and detoxification.

It is important to cook eggs correctly to ensure they are healthy, with the best form as poached, boiled, scrambled or in omelettes. Never fry eggs and only use fresh organic eggs.

A normal limit range would be 12 to 15 eggs per week. Yes, really!

Remember that the liver makes 80% of the body’s cholesterol and cholesterol levels are regulated automatically by a healthy liver. If you consume a little more cholesterol one day, the liver will not manufacture as much of its own cholesterol and levels should balance out. Liver function has a much greater effect upon cholesterol levels, than does a modest consumption of healthy foods containing cholesterol.

18 Mar 2011

Article/Information supplied by Nu-Leaf - Kyeema Fanning & Petroula Kapsimallis

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.

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