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Friday, June 27, 2014

Eggs the SUPER FOOD!!



Eggs are a superfood!!
Canadian Agriculture – we should be so very proud!
In Canada, the focus of the egg farms for the past 40 years is to ensure... fresh, local, high-quality, high standards of farming practices & food safety with high regard for animal welfare.

The eggs that you see in the store are from local small family run farms over 300 hens. Canadians do NOT want our table eggs to come from large facilities. Canadians want to support the family farms and stay local. On average in Alberta, we have 8300 hens per farm. (on average in US, they have 1 million hens per farm – Canadian Farming is very different. That is not to say they don’t have smaller local farms, it’s an average.) Did you know that 80% of our local farms are hutterites. If you drive to pick up your eggs from the farm, that’s great, but if you are pressed for time, you can go to your local store and get those same eggs. We have a few new family farms opening each year to keep up with growing families eating wonderful eggs. Eggs have amazing nutrition in them and are used in so many ways in our cooking – that is why it is a superfood! With 14 nutrients in the yolk, protein in the white... eggs are an amazing high quality, natural food product! Used as a leavening agent in cakes, emulsifier in custards and mayonnaise, binding agent in cookies and hamburger, coating agent in crispy coated fish and chicken, thickening agent in soups, sauces, ice creams, or just all on its own as sunny side up or in an omelette!

Eggs you see in Farmers Markets can be from one of our local farmers or could be from a farm with under 300 hens. Those under 300 hen eggs are supervised by the Health Inspectors. If the egg is NOT an “Inspected” egg it needs to say so. It cannot be in a used egg carton to avoid contamination, food poisoning like salmonella or bacteria.  If the carton is new and shows “Canada Grade A” egg and it is not – it must have a label covering the grade A and say “uninspected or ungraded eggs”. (some farms buy cartons)  If you buy these eggs, please make sure you wash the eggs to ensure the fecal material and bacteria on the shell will not drop into your food when you are cracking your eggs for preparation of cooking.  Wash the eggs in 10 degrees warmer water with a mild detergent. Don’t let your eggs sit in water, once the egg equalizes temperature it will draw contaminates into the egg through the pores. Store your eggs large end up so the air cell stays in place. Store your eggs in the refrigerator to avoid bacteria to grow if there is a hairline crack or to avoid the drop of the quality of the egg. Canada law is to buy eggs refrigerated to avoid any food poisoning from a perishable food product. (some people mark the eggs with a marker – to show dates or hard boiled etc. The shell has 8000 pores and draws air (and marker) into the shell. If you must label the eggs use a food coloring. Eggs are good for 2 weeks past the “sell by” date on the carton if you buy the eggs from the store. After the “sell by” date, it’s recommended you cook the eggs thoroughly, like scrambled or omelette or baking.

 It’s important and great to know that a Canada Grade A egg from your local family run farm has statistics of 1 egg in 1 million eggs has a chance of having salmonella – amazing, super clean stats for the industry! (other countries are 40 times more than that.)  In Canada, we swab and test our farms with random inspections 3 times a year for Salmonella and we do regular farm visits and chicken counts on a regular basis to all of the farms in Canada.

Have you ever stood in front of the egg case and wondered what the difference is between all the various types of eggs? Did you know that some eggs are classified based on the formulation of feed the hens eat, while other eggs are classified based on the housing system the hens live in?
Egg laying hens are housed in a variety of ways in Alberta. Every housing system is designed to provide a clean environment, fresh food and water, and protection from predators. Additionally, every indoor housing system provides consistent temperature, humidity and lighting. All Canadian eggs are antibiotic and hormone free, and are produced to the same world-class standards for food safety and quality, so be sure to check for the Canadian Grade-A symbol!

White Eggs: from white hens that are typically raised in conventional cages.

Brown Eggs: from brown hens that are typically raised in conventional cages. (Conventional Cages in Canada are the largest in the world. Moving forward, a lot of our small family run farms are shifting over to a Furnished/Enriched System – with amazing space for the hens. I call this a Chicken Coop System.)

Furnished / Enriched Eggs: from hens that are raised in furnished housing, which provides more space (both floor space and height) and offer a variety of enrichments (i.e. nesting boxes, perches and scratch pads) that allow the hens to express more natural behaviours.

Free-Run Eggs: from hens that are raised in barns where they are free to roam, which offer a variety
of enrichments (i.e. nesting boxes and perches) that allow the hens to express more natural behaviours.

Free-Range Eggs: from hens that are raised in free-run housing, which also provides access to outdoor runs (when weather permits).

Organic Eggs: from hens that are raised typically in free- run or free-range housing and only provided feed that has been certified organic, which means that it only contains ingredients that were grown without pesticides, herbicides or commercial fertilizer.

Omega-3 Eggs: from hens that are provided feed that contains extra flax (up to 10-20%), resulting in these eggs containing more Omega-3 fatty acids. This creates a darker yolk. (is this enough for your daily requirement – no, so take fish oils daily or fresh ground flax over foods daily, or eat fish 4 times a week or a combination of all of this with omega 3 eggs to top up the levels.)

Vitamin-Enhanced Eggs: from hens that are provided feed that was nutritionally enhanced to include higher levels of certain vitamins (i.e. Vitamin D or Vitamin E), resulting in these eggs containing more of the particular vitamin(s). (if you already boost up your vitamins with supplementation – excellent, this is an added bonus to ensure optimum health)

Vegetarian Eggs: from hens that are provided feed that contains only plant-based ingredients.

Feed: some hens are feed, Wheat- lighter yolk, Wheat, corn, grain mixture – little darker yolk, wheat, canola, corn, barley mixture – even darker yolk. They can be feed alfalfa grass pellet feed and also fish meal or soy bean meal. The birds need to have protein, as they would eat mice, bugs, worms, spiders – even their own poop if unsupervised or not cleaned up, so we keep the conditions amazingly clean to avoid this from happening.

No matter what eggs you buy, they are all amazing!! You are doing your body so good buy choosing eggs.
What ones you buy is totally up to you. Do you have to spend $6.89 a dozen?
It costs a bit more for different variety of egg types due to handling, specialty feed, type of hen, type of feed, amount of feed, environment they live in, more advanced systems to ensure the comfort of the hen, cleaning processes, etc. Prices of eggs do fluctuate depending on the bushels of wheat prices that reflect onto the farmer. Those prices transfer to what the grading station pays and what the store pays for the eggs. After that, the stores can charge as low as they want as a lost leader promotion to bring you into the store or as high as they want during a time that they notice that this is what the customer will continually pay. At the store level, the pricing is out of our hands. What do I buy? I buy jumbo eggs all the time for approx. $2.75 or so at the store and this is what I eat. (Great value for my dollar and amazing nutrition!) The choice is up to you.  
No matter what eggs you buy, they are all amazing!! You are doing your body so good buy choosing eggs.
A great blog to read is this one. Mike the chicken vet – has so much more info on his blog that I have not had a chance to read, however, it is great to read from a vet’s opinion.

I could go on for hours and I have... if you would like more information as an Egg Farmer of Alberta Educator, you can have me out to meeting, education events, or trade shows. Contact me at ecastle@shaw.ca or 403-680-7200.

Beth Castle
Dietary Technician/Author/Speaker
4 time Award Winning Author
Health, Fitness & Beauty
Psychology & Mental Health
Women’s Issues
Diet/Nutrition
Alberta Beef Educator
Egg Farmer of Alberta Educator