What kind of eggs do you buy?

There are so many options. Regular white eggs are a bargain at under $2 a carton. There are brown eggs, but you have to read the cartons to figure out what’s going on: some are organic or cage-free, some are omega-3 fortified, and then there are some labeled free-range. These brown eggs tend to be pricier, but how do we know which ones to choose?

The first thing to know is that the color of the egg depends on the breed of chicken. Their genetics determine the pigment that will be deposited before the egg is laid. Most of the time, chickens with white ear lobes produce white eggs, and chickens with red ear lobes produce brown eggs. But this is not always the case, and there are blue or green eggs that can also be laid. The main point here is that just because an egg is brown does not mean it is necessarily healthier for you.

Organic eggs come from chickens who are fed organic feed, meaning it is not treated with any pesticides or fertilizers. But, organic does not mean free-range. They can still be caged. It also does not indicate whether chickens are fed corn or grass or something else; just that no chemicals are added to their feed. This means these chemicals will not be passed onto us, which is a good thing.

Caged chickens

These could be considered free-range chickens:

Free-range or cage-free eggs come from chickens who are allowed to roam and are not kept in cages their entire lives. However, this is not very closely regulated. Chickens could be cage-free but kept in a barn all day. Or maybe they are packed into one tiny area so even though they are not in cages, they have very crowded living situations. Also, free-range or cage-free makes no indication of what these chickens are fed. Some eggs are labeled “organic free-range,” which is a better choice.

Free-range grass-fed chickens

Recently I bought farm fresh eggs from Denver’s year-round indoor farmer’s market. These eggs come from grass-fed chickens who are allowed to roam freely their entire lives in large, grassy outdoor spaces. Grass-fed chicken eggs are much more nutrient-dense than other types of eggs. They have about 4 times more vitamin D than the original white eggs you buy in the supermarket, and one thid less cholesterol. They have less saturated fat, more vitamin A, more vitamin E, more beta carotene, and double the amount of healthy omega-3 fats. The color of the yoke from a farm fresh grass-fed egg is indicative of the health of these chickens and all the nutrients they receive. These chickens are in the sunshine all day and get plenty of vitamin D, which is vital to health (read about it here).

My Nutrients teacher took a picture of an organic cage-free egg from a local health food store, and then took a picture of one of her farm fresh grass-fed eggs, and brought them in for us to see. The yoke of the organic cage-free egg was much more pale and dull than the bright, orange-yellow yoke of the farm egg. I tried a similar experiment at home. My camera is broken so these are all taken with my iphone, so the quality isn’t the best but you can sort of tell the difference.

Eggland’s Best cage free eggs

Eggs from a local Colorado farm's grass-fed chickens

Find out if there are any local farms that produce eggs from grass-fed chickens in your area. Often they sell their eggs at independent grocery stores or farmer’s markets. Other times you may have to meet them somewhere in the city to purchase your eggs. If this is not possible, try to buy grass-fed, organic, free-range eggs whenever possible. They are rich in nutrients and taste so much better!

Another tip: many people eat only the egg whites, because they want to avoid the fats found in the egg yokes. However, an egg is a whole food, and like all whole foods, must be eaten as such in order to get all of the health benefits. The nutrients in the whites work with the nutrients in the yoke to properly digest and absorb into your body. Without both components, some nutrients will be lost. If you are on a low-fat diet, I recommend just eating half the egg (white and yoke), rather than the entire white and no yoke. Also keep in mind that the fats in the egg yoke are wonderful fats that our bodies need and utilize to be fully balanced. It’s the processed foods and sugars that make us gain weight, not something from a food as perfect as an egg!


  1. What some middle aged men do is have 4 eggs, but remove two of the yokes. No problems until noon.

    Ann, I talked to a new teacher last night and we discussed the issues with food in the classrom and kids bringing food for their birthday and other events. Seems like a good blog topic.

  2. I would be interested in knowing the advantages / disadvantages of eating an egg substitute (like Egg Beaters, which are okay...) versus an actual egg (which I LOVE), and if you're still getting the all of the good stuff, without any of the bad.

  3. Mmmm...I love eggs. I can't believe the difference in the color of the yolks! I always try to buy cage free or free range, but now I'm going to start getting our eggs at the Farmer's Market. I learned so much today! Thanks!

  4. In response to Anonymous's comment... Egg substitutes are a processed food, and I do not recommend them. I do not believe there is anything "bad" in real, fresh eggs, because they are a whole food and many studies have shown that people with high cholesterol actually benefit from eating whole eggs in moderation. Any time you eat processed or fake foods (like egg substitutes), your body becomes slightly out of balance and you do not receive all the nutrients you need. Just my opinion though!

  5. Thank you for publicizing that last bit about the "whole" egg. I try and educate my clients on this often (I'm a trainer) when they ask for protein recommendations, but honestly, the popularity of the egg-white in the low-fat diet makes it hard for the general public to believe me. It drives me crazy! So the more people putting it out there, the better!

  6. Great to hear the yolk eating suggestion. Me, I love the yolk and never pass it up. Firstly I think it's wasteful and disrespectful and secondly, I believe one egg is only 76 calories. I'm on a diet and had 3 eggs in an omelet for lunch with spring onions, fresh chives, fresh mint, fresh dill and a small amount of goats cheese. It was yummy and fine diet food as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and they're really filling so they keep me sated for ages. Love your blog. Tania

  7. I believe eggs were really good but too mich of it brings a negative effects.

  8. Hi, Ann. I love your blog - it is very inspiring. I'm so glad you recommend whole eggs. If you look into the old studies showing eggs are high in cholesterol, you'll find that most of them used powdered eggs, which of course our bodies process differently than unprocessed eggs. Also, many of those studies were performed at the request/expense of Kellogg's and General Mills. Obviously, those companies had a vested interest in the outcome --hoping to encourage a shift towards breakfast cereal.
    Speaking of breakfast cereal...I'm a total carbs addict. I'd love your thoughts on a healthy way to satisfy carb cravings. And, does craving carbs signify some sort of nutrition deficit?
    Again, thanks for the great info!!
    Lindsay Chapman (Alice's friend)

  9. Hi Lindsay! Thanks for your comment - I have read about those studies and it's so shocking that they do not mention they use powdered or otherwise processed eggs! And you make a good point about studies - we always need to determine who is funding them because that can affect how results are reported. Whole eggs are actually used by many nutritionists as a food to lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss!

    Thanks for the blog suggestions about carbs - I will add it to my list! I am glad you are enjoying the blog, and thank you SO MUCH for reading!