Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Q: What's the difference between organic eggs, vegetarian eggs, free-range eggs, omega-3 eggs, and cage-free eggs? Is it worth spending more for any of them? —Elaine Lau
A: Nutritionally, there isn't much difference—except for the omega-3 eggs. Vegetarian eggs are from hens that eat a strictly plant-based diet, no animal by-products; these eggs may carry the USDA ORGANIC label as well, which means the chickens eat only organic grains and the eggs contain no antibiotics. Cartons stamped FREE-RANGE and CAGE-FREE may indicate that a farmer allows his hens to roam, but the USDA verifies free-range only with chickens sold for meat; for egg-laying birds, there's no guarantee that they have access to the outdoors.
The only difference between white and brown eggs is that they come from white or red chickens. Eggs get omega-3s when hens eat a diet enriched with flaxseed and other sources of these heart-healthy fats. One egg delivers 100 to 200 milligrams—about the same as a tablespoon of olive oil. (Most omega-3 oil experts suggest people get at least 1,000 milligrams a day.) The special diet also boosts the eggs' vitamin E and can lower their cholesterol levels.
Are any of these eggs worth the extra cost? For vegetarians, the answer is easy; for people concerned about the environment, organic eggs have appeal. The Katz household eats omega-3 eggs exclusively.