Which Types of Eggs Are Best to Buy?
In light of a recent egg-related salmonella outbreak that has affected over 1,000 individuals, more and more people are starting to question the safety of their eggs. Which is the safest way to go? Organic, free-range or pasteurized? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. However, understanding the differences between them may help you make better choices.
Organic eggs may or may not be cage-free. The hens are provided with organic feed and are not given antibiotics, hormones or vaccinations. The feed these chickens are given is required to be non-GMO and grown in soil that has contained no chemical pesticides or toxins for a minimum of three years.
Free-range means that the chickens have access to the outdoors and are not kept in cages. That said, the term can be ambiguous. The chickens might be able to roam about in the sunshine, but it’s more likely that they’re simply kept in a sheltered outdoor pen.
Often mistaken for free-range, cage-free simply means the chickens aren’t forced to live in cages. Instead, they’re kept in an open-floor building layered with wood shavings and outfitted with nesting boxes. Depending on the farm where they’re raised, they may be severely overcrowded, which increases the risk of harmful bacteria on the eggs.
As the name suggests, these chickens are fed a diet free of animal by-products like bone meal or fish meal. The birds are raised indoors, where there’s no opportunity to forage for bugs or other animal protein sources.
Pasteurized eggs are exposed to temperatures of 140 degrees for nearly four minutes, which kills any bacteria on the shell without cooking the eggs. Unfortunately, egg producers aren’t required to pasteurize their eggs, though many agree that it should be.
Making the Safest Choice
While many people think that vegetarian, free-range or organic eggs would be safer, this is not necessarily true. These terms merely indicate how the chickens are raised and is more of a guide of humane treatment. If you want to reduce your odds of food-borne illness, experts recommend choosing pasteurized eggs whenever possible.