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4 Claims On Egg Labels -- And What They Really Mean

05/04/2015 08:44 am ET | Updated May 05, 2015
Adam Voorhes

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We unscramble the claims on the carton to give you the hard-boiled facts.

By Leslie Goldman

1. The Label: Omega-3 Enriched

What it means: The animals' feed boasts added omega-3 fatty acids, typically from flaxseed, fish oil, or algae.

Eggs-tra healthy? Yes. Eggs from one popular omega-enhanced brand contain 225 milligrams of omega-3s each; a standard large egg has only 37 milligrams. Flaxseed-enriched eggs may be an especially good bet for some vegetarians, since meat- and seafood-free diets can be deficient in the healthful fatty acids.

2. The Label: Organic

What it means: Birds must have access to the outdoors year-round, consume only organic feed, and receive no growth hormones or antibiotics.

Eggs-tra healthy? Maybe. With these eggs, it's possible you'll minimize your potential exposure to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that may be used in conventional chicken feed, says Michael K. Hansen, PhD, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union.

3. The Label: Pasture-Raised

What it means: Typically, hens are able to forage in pastures with fresh vegetation (diets may be supplemented with grain).

Eggs-tra healthy? Possibly. Although there are no uniform standards for how pastured hens are raised, a Penn State study revealed that eggs laid by one group of pasture-raised hens had twice as much vitamin E and more than double the omega-3s compared with eggs from caged hens that were fed just a commercial grain diet.

4. The Label: Brown

What it means: Nothing more than that the birds laid brown eggs; the shade of the shell tends to match the color of the hen's earlobes.

Eggs-tra healthy? Nope. "There's no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs," says Paul Patterson, PhD, a professor of poultry science at Penn State. "Because brown-egg-laying hens are larger, they require more feed, so their eggs are often more expensive," lending an aura of superiority that has zero nutritional basis.

What About Duck Eggs?

Popping up on foodie hot lists across the country, duck eggs are larger and eggier tasting than chicken eggs. They also have more vitamins: One duck egg contains 63 percent of your daily vitamin B12 needs, for instance, while a medium chicken egg offers just 9 percent. But keep in mind that duck eggs have more fat and cholesterol (10 grams and 619 milligrams, respectively, compared with 4 grams and 186 milligrams in chicken eggs).

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