When raised the way nature intended, both chickens and their eggs are healthy sources of high-quality nutrients that many are deficient in — especially high-quality protein and healthy fat.
Eggs contain complete proteins, meaning they provide the eight essential amino acids, essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your skin, internal organs, muscles, and more.
They also contain carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for good eyesight, and choline, which is needed for the normal development of memory, as well as betaine, tryptophan and tyrosine, all of which are important for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Cholesterol is also important for health, and contrary to popular belief, the cholesterol in eggs will not adversely affect your cholesterol levels.1
However, to reap all the benefits chicken and eggs have to offer, it's important to realize that not all chickens and eggs are the same. It all depends on how they were raised. I strongly advise sticking with free-range organic varieties.
Not only is the nutritional profile of eggs and chickens raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) inferior to their pastured, free-ranging counterparts, they're also far more likely to be contaminated with salmonella.
Organic Egg Scorecard Cuts Through Confusion and Misleading Labels
While there's no way to guarantee 100 percent safety all the time, the benefits of free-range poultry are becoming more well-recognized, and reduced disease risk is definitely part of that benefits package.
As reported by The Guardian,2 sale of cage-free and organic eggs is on the rise, and five U.S. states now ban caged hens. Unfortunately, loopholes abound, allowing CAFO-raised chickens and eggs to masquerade as "free-range" and "organic."
Both consumers and corporate customers, such as McDonald's, Nestle, and General Mills, are now demanding egg producers convert to cage-free methods. It's worth noting that "cage-free" still does not mean the chickens were raised under ideal conditions.
They're not raised in cages, but they may still not have access to the outdoors. So there are still significant differences even between "cage-free" and "free range" (or "pastured") eggs. With so many loopholes and lack of transparency, it can be very confusing to sort through it all.
The Cornucopia Institute addressed these issues in a recent egg report. According to Mark Kastel, co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, there's a factory farm takeover of the egg industry underway, with large CAFOs now controlling 80 percent of the organic egg market.
Yet less than 9 percent of hens raised in the U.S. are raised without cages.3 The organic label simply means the hens have been raised on organic feed. It is not an indication that they've been humanely or sustainably raised.