Eggs and Nutrition: Update
I’ve become interested eggs and nutrition, in particular, after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In it, he discusses the quality of organic eggs vs. non-organic eggs. According to Pollan, the yolks of eggs of free-range chickens can be much superior in terms of taste and cooking. As a result, I have been considering getting my eggs from a local farmer in the fall. However, Pollan says nothing about nutrient value and, knowing that I would be paying more for these local eggs, I wondered how much extra nutrition my money would be buying. (Photo from FreeFoto.com)
Thus I found an article from Feedstuffs Foodlink, “Clearing Up Egg, Milk ‘Myths,'” which addresses issues concerning the nutrient value and safety of raw eggs and milk, to be interesting and worthy of a post.
Caged Chickens vs. Free-Range Chickens
The article first discusses the research of Dr. Kenneth Anderson (2011), a poultry scientist who tested the eggs of both caged and free-range chickens being fed the same diet to see whether the chickens’ “lifestyle” affected the nutrient quality of their output. His conclusion: “There was no housing-related (cage or range) influence on the levels of vitamin A or vitamin B in the eggs or on the levels of other nutrients.”
That still leaves me wondering about whether most organic chickens eat the same or different diet than those in henhouses. There is, as it turns out, no easy answer. Pollan’s high-quality eggs come from a farm where the chickens are part of cow-chicken rotation of mixed-grass fields. But, as he points out, this does not mean that chickens advertised as “organic” actually come from such an ideal growing situation.
It turns out that the regulations that allow farmers to make an “organic” claim regarding their chickens differ from state to state and may be as simple as opening a door in a crowded chicken barn when chicks are six weeks old so they can go from caged to free-ranging. Whether the chickens ever actually leave the barn is problematic.
In other words, to get the most for your money, you have to go beyond the “organic” label and actually find out how your particular farmer raises his or her chickens. Hmmm.
Raw Eggs vs. Cooked Eggs
The article then goes on to address a different issue: the value of eating raw eggs vs. cooked eggs. Apparently, some people now claim that raw eggs provide nutrition that is lost when eggs are cooked. According to a dietician and professor of consumer sciences, Dr. Suzy Weems, cooking eggs does not alter or destroy their nutritional value: “Eggs have such a complete nutrient/protein profile that cooking eggs does not compromise that profile and, in fact, makes digesting them easier and more efficient.”
The article also comes down hard on the danger of eating raw eggs because of salmonella contamination. Weems says, “Under no circumstances (should anyone) eat a raw egg” although she does acknowledge that “only a fraction of all eggs are contaminated with salmonella.”
I decided to check this further. Health Canada (2011) says that “Although Salmonella is not very common in Canadian eggs, some people are more susceptible to it, particularly young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Therefore, it is recommended that eggs be cooked thoroughly when serving to people in these high risk groups.”
I personally wouldn’t eat a raw egg, but I do like my boiled eggs to be runny. Hmmm. Well, no one ever said life was easy—certainly true when it comes to something as simple as eating an egg!