Living in a cage

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misleading egg labels

Farm fresh, Natural and Vegetarian

A hen in front of the rising sun. A little red barn. Words like "fed vegetarian feed," "farm fresh" or "Omega-3." These words and images on egg cartons mean nothing as far as animal welfare is concerned. In fact, eggs in these cartons are from hens in cages.


Omega rich eggs

Despite their logos and the descriptive words on their cartons, Omega-3 and Born-3 eggs are from hens in cages. In order to achieve an omega-3 content similar to that found in eggs from free-range hens, supplements such as flax and fish oils are added to the feed of a battery cage hen in order to boost the omega-3 content in her eggs. Eggs from free-range hens have a naturally occurring level of Omega-3 due to the diet of natural vegetation and insects and grasses that free range hens consume.


In 2007 CBC Marketplace analyzed the difference in omega oil content between certified organic eggs and Omega-3 eggs and found that amounts were negligible. The only real difference between these two types of eggs is that Omega-3 eggs are from hens crammed into tiny wire cages.


However, in 2009,  Karyne Rogers, of Geological and Nuclear Science's National Isotope Centre in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, compared different brands of off-the-shelf eggs from cage, barn, free range and organic farming regimes.  Using isotope analysis, she found almost all the eggs could be differentiated by relating the carbon and nitrogen found in the egg to the hen's diet.  This was possible as diet directly reflected the type of farming environment where the hens were raised, Dr Rogers said.

 

In general, eggs are very poor sources of omega fatty acids. If you want to add omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to your diet, try some of the following high omega foods:

  • Flax seeds (one of the richest food sources of omega fatty acids)
  • Walnuts (very good source)
  • Soybeans (very good source)
  • Tofu
  • Baked winter squash
  • Spinach

 

High omega-3 and -6 oils include:

  • Flaxseed oil (very high)
  • Hemp seed oil (very high)
  • Corn, canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils

 

For information on what labels to look for, see our list of Recommended Egg Labels or download our wallet-sized tri-fold Egg Shopping Guide.