Healthy Hollywood: Ask Keri Glassman — Organic Vs. Free Range Eggs?

Nutritionist Keri Glassman, who regularly shares her expertise on Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live, is answering your nutrition, diet and health questions.

Want to know how celebrities are getting their fabulous post-baby bodies? And, if their diet plan is right for you?

This week’s question…

I read recently that a bunch of Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon all have chicken coops on their property. Is there a benefit that comes with raising free-range chickens for their eggs as opposed to buying organic eggs? - Sue W., Madison, Wisc.

Keri says…

There’s no denying the nutritional benefit of one of nature’s best superfoods: the incredible egg! Eggs are one of the best sources of high-quality protein. Eggs also provide us with choline, which keeps nerve communication at peak levels, helping to improve memory and muscle control. So what’s all this talk about the celebs housing our feathered friends in a free-range coop right on their property to raise their own egg-ceptional eggs? I thought I only had to worry about finding a personal trainer to get a body like Jennifer’s… now do I have to build my own chicken coop resembling a hotel suite?! Cue the overwhelming sigh. There are so many different types of eggs that it’s easy to confuse terms like “organic” and “free-range”. Let me egg-splain (couldn’t help myself) the basics for you.

What’s the diff?

Organic: Certified organically-produced food products abide by a set of US Department of Agriculture standards. The USDA organic seal verifies that “producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors,” although the amount, duration, and quality of this access is undefined. In other words, the hen’s feed is organic which is good, but keep in mind it is often comprised of mostly grains, not grass.

Free-range: Sometimes referred to as “free-roaming”. Free-range birds must not live in cages, have continuous access to food and water, as well as continuous access to the outdoors. However, there are no quality standards for what that outdoor area must be like. Additionally, there are no restrictions regarding what the bird needs to be fed. Free-range birds that have access to an actual pasture consume a diet higher in grass, therefore they produce eggs with lower fat and cholesterol and higher in vitamin A than those that are strictly grain-fed.

So next time you find yourself amongst a slew of egg cartons, which label should you go for (if your main concern is finding the healthiest egg)? All things considered, I’d have to say it’s, well, a toss-up… It’s the feeding process that determines the nutrients in the egg. If a hen is fed better nutrients while being raised, it lays eggs that may carry more nutrients - it’s as simple as that! The American Egg Board states that “the nutrient content of eggs from the same breed of hen fed the same diet is not affected by whether hens are raised free-range or in floor or cage operations. It is solely determined by the feed.” When you buy organic eggs, as mentioned above, you are consuming eggs produced by hens eating organic feed - again, good start but they might not be getting those added nutrients from the greens that a grass-fed hen gets. If you choose to go organic, I recommend omega-3 fortified organic eggs. The omega-3 fortification comes from a feed that is rich in flax, algae, and fish oil content. Thus, you get an egg that has an increased amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fats than the traditional, non-fortified egg. The other option would be buying “pastured” eggs (I’d aim for buying “pastured” eggs as opposed to “free-range”). “Pastured” differs from “free-range” in that it ensures that the birds were allowed to roam in an actual pasture, eating lots of greens (not just outside roaming on a free-range cement lot).

So there you have it - by no means do you have to invest in your own chicken coop but by all means, know your eggs!

-- Terri MacLeod & Keri Glassman

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