What's the deal with omega-3 and organic eggs?
By: Sarah Martel, MHSc(c) & Aja Gyimah, MHSc, RD
Are they really more nutritious than conventional eggs? And most importantly, are they worth the increased price?
Earlier this year, I was one of the guest Registered Dietitians on CBC Marketplace’s segment "Egg Crackdown" and I wanted to give you a rundown here in case you missed it. Marketplace had a reputable food science lab test eggs from 14 different brands available in large Canadian grocery retailers, to analyze and compare their nutrition content. It’s safe to say we were all a bit surprised at what they found!
In recent years, ‘Omega-3’ eggs have been appearing on grocery store shelves and you may have wondered if they are worth the premium price. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is important for brain health, particularly brain growth & development in infancy and childhood, as well as inflammation and heart health. Since these fats are coined “essential”, it means we cannot produce them in our bodies and we need to get them from our diet. To meet your daily omega-3 requirements, women need 1.1g/day and men need 1.6g/day.
So it’s good news that we can now purchase omega-3 eggs right? Maybe not. When the lab compared omega-3 content of eggs, they found that conventional eggs averaged 0.05g per egg and organic eggs 0.13g per egg. Popular ‘Omega-3’ egg brands such as President’s choice, Gray Ridge and Burnbrae have around 0.4g per egg, which is an improvement. However, you would need to have at least 3 eggs per day to meet your needs, and this comes at an increased cost of $2-3 more per dozen. Luckily there are other great omega-3 food sources for you to choose from such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and plant oils (flax, canola, soybean) to name a few.
Omega-3 wasn’t the only nutrient in question! When comparing protein, cholesterol, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E content, the lab found conventional eggs to have about the same amount of each nutrient as their organic counterparts. This is quite substantial considering organic eggs are $3-4 more per dozen than conventional eggs. This increased cost comes from the chickens’ organic feed and their cage-free roaming environment. Consumers may choose organic eggs for various reasons, including animal treatment conditions. But it’s a relief to know that you’re not missing much nutritionally if choosing conventional eggs.
Lastly, big-brand organic eggs such as Burnbrae and GoldEgg were also compared to small-farm organic eggs sold by Bekings Poultry Farm and Yorkshire Valley Farms. It turns out that small-farm organic eggs have more vitamin E, vitamin D and slightly more protein than the big brands. While small-farm eggs also come at a premium of around $8 per dozen, it might be worth looking into if you’re wanting to support local businesses.
Bottom line, eggs are an excellent and relatively accessible source of protein. While they shouldn’t be your one-stop-shop for omega-3 fats, they can totally be in your diet if nutritionally and culturally appropriate. When choosing which eggs to pick up, it really comes down to what you can afford and what you value!
If you’d like to learn more about the Marketplace investigation, check out their article “Are cheaper eggs just as nutritious as organic and free-run options? Marketplace tested 14 brands to find out” for a summary and condensed video of CBC's segment!