Organic production may still represent only a small fraction of agricultural sales, but it has been booming over the last two decades. Often, we believe that organic means healthier, but organic may not always mean the food is more nutritious. Scientists have been debating for many years whether organic eggs are healthier than conventional eggs.
Organic food certification is a self-regulated term depending on the national government that regulates it. In the United States, organic foods must not have any artificial food additives or genetically modified ingredients. In addition, organic foods must refrain from artificial methods, materials, and conditions like chemical ripening and food irradiation. Organic farmers can use pesticides as long as they are not synthetic. However, if pests and weeds are too difficult to manage through organic pesticides or herbicides, synthetic substances that are approved on the National List of synthetic substances can be used.
Hens that lay organic eggs may live in a caging system but are usually cage-free. They eat organic feed and do not receive hormones, vaccines, or antibiotics. The land the hens live on must produce the feed and must be free from the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers for at least three years.
When it comes to macronutrients, there is little difference between organic eggs and conventional eggs. Organic eggs contain similar amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and some fats as conventional eggs do. There is no evidence to show that organic eggs have less cholesterol than conventional eggs. An Italian study revealed that the chances of all eggs (both organic and conventional) being contaminated with Salmonella were minuscule but still possible.
Recent research finds organic eggs to have more micronutrients than conventional eggs. Findings from Penn State University suggest that organic chicken eggs have three times more omega-3 fatty acids than their caged counterparts. The eggs also contained 40% more vitamin A and twice as much vitamin E.
Many individuals are concerned with antibiotics in their food. Organic eggs are free from any antibiotic residues. In a 2000 study, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, researchers found that antibiotics used in chicken feed could remain in a chicken's eggs for up to seven days.
Arsenic is a poisonous heavy metal when too much is present in the body. A test by the Utah Department of Health identified arsenic-tainted eggs in chickens fed conventional feed. Arsenic contamination comes from an additive called roxarsone, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is used to promote chicken growth. Organic eggs do not have any of these chemicals or heavy metals.
If you are looking to get your daily protein, then choosing any kind of egg will work. Otherwise, organic eggs can lower the risk of you consuming additional antibiotics or heavy metals.
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Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Burns-Whitmore, B. L., Haddad, E. H., Sabaté, J., Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Tanzman, J., & Rajaram, S. (2010). Effect of n-3 fatty acid enriched eggs and organic eggs on serum lutein in free-living lacto-ovo vegetarians. European journal of clinical nutrition, 64(11), 1332-1337.
Tlustos, C., Pratt, I., Moylan, R., Neilan, R., White, S., Fernandes, A., & Rose, M. (2004). Investigation into levels of dioxins, furans and PCBs in battery, free range, barn and organic eggs. Organohalogen compounds, 66, 1901-1907.
Rizzi, C., & Marangon, A. (2012). Quality of organic eggs of hybrid and Italian breed hens. Poultry science, 91(9), 2330-2340.
Kan, C. A. (2005, May). Chemical residues in poultry and eggs produced in free-range or organic systems. In Proceedings of the XVII European Symposium on the Quality of Poultry Meat and X European Symposium on the Quality of Eggs and Egg Products, Doorwerth (pp. 28-36).