I recently had the pleasure of visiting Burnbrae Farms just outside of Ottawa, where I was lead through the entire egg production and grading system, and taught about the different hen housing systems, and the various types of eggs that are available to us here in Canada.
It’s amazing how times have changed–we have a lot more variety when it comes to eggs than we did when I was a kid! Everything from conventionally-produced eggs, to free-range, organic and omega-3 fortified eggs. No wonder so many people find the egg case at the grocery store overwhelming–it’s tough to know what to choose!
Now that I’m better informed, I feel confident that I’m choosing the right types of eggs for my family, and my egg purchasing has become much less overwhelming.
HERE WERE MY TOP 5 TAKE-AWAYS:
#1: No matter where you are in Canada, you’re eating local, Canadian eggs.
When you buy Canada Grade A eggs, you can rest assured knowing that they have travelled from farm to grocery store in under a week. The eggs that we eat, regardless of where we are in the country are 100% Canadian, fresh and local.
#2: Free-run or free-range don’t necessarily mean “better”:
There are several hen housing systems here in Canada, and I was able to see three out of four of them during my trip to Burnbrae Farms:
- Conventional housing: where hens live together in small groups in cages that offer easy access to food and water. The eggs are gathered either by hand or conveyor. This is the most common housing system used by egg farmers in Canada.
- Enriched housing: where small groups of hens (anywhere from 16 to 60) live in cages that vary in size, where they are free to perch and lay their eggs in a special nesting area, and where they have safe and easy access to food and water. Similar to the conventional system, eggs are gathered by hand or conveyor.
- Free-run housing is where hens live freely on wire or slatted floors, some with bedding areas, in an enclosed barn. They have access to food and water, perches for roosting and nesting areas to lay their eggs.
- Free-range housing is similar to free-run housing except the birds have access to a restricted outside area, weather permitting. The hens are also provided with bedding areas where they can dust bathe.
Free-run and free-range systems do offer the most freedom of activity, but it also puts the hens at greater risks. It can be more challenging for hens to access food and water because there is a natural “pecking order”, which means that there are certain less dominant hens are singled out, picked on and even attacked by more dominant hens.
When it comes to free-range systems, hens are able to roam outside, which offers them greater freedom but it also exposes them to wild birds, bacteria and avian disease. Bird monitoring is more labour intensive for farmers in free run and free-range systems too.
Regardless of the housing system used, farmers closely monitor their hens throughout each day to ensure they are healthy, clean, and have access to abundant food and water.
My personal favourite (and one of the most sustainable of them all) is the enriched housing system (Burnbrae brands these as “Nestlaid Eggs”). This provides some added freedom and privacy for the hens, while still allowing for tighter control over sanitation, animal safety, egg quality and environmental impact.
#3: You don’t have to worry about antibiotics, hormones or steroids:
Antibiotics are very rarely used on hen farms in Canada. Medication is provided only when the hens are sick and is administered under the supervision of a veterinarian. Hens are vaccinated when they are young to build defenses against diseases during their adult lives (just like humans!) and steroid and hormone use has been banned in the Canadian egg industry for more than 50 years. Relieved? You should be!
#4: Omega-3 enriched eggs are in fact a good source of Omega-3!
While all eggs are nutritious, some eggs provide an extra dose of nutrients–particularly Omega-3, Lutein and in some cases, Vitamin D. Most of us know that Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly DHA) are very important for brain and eye development and health, as well as heart health. With low-mercury fatty fish (such as salmon, trout and sardines) being the gold standard source of Omega-3, some families struggle to ensure that everyone meets their weekly quota.
Omega-3 fortified eggs (such as Burnbrae Farms Naturegg Omega Plus eggs) are a great source of Omega-3 (they have eight times the amount of Omega-3 as compared to regular eggs!), because the hens that lay these eggs are not only fed flax seeds (which are a plant source of Omega-3), but they are also fed a bit of fish oil, which renders a DHA-rich egg.
Each single egg serving of “Naturegg Omega Plus” provides 125 mg of DHA omega-3, 0.500 mg of lutein and is an excellent source of Vitamin D. This means that your toddler and child will meet their requirements with only one of these eggs per day. If you consume two of these eggs per day as an adult, you’ve met almost half of your daily requirement of Omega-3. Add in a serving of fatty fish per week, and you’re there!
#5: There are many varieties of eggs to choose from, and they’re all nutritious!
Going to the grocery store can be confusing and overwhelming for anybody–including Registered Dietitians! Until now, I found the egg case quite overwhelming–there are so many varieties now! Luckily for us, they are ALL healthy and jam-packed full of nutrition.
Here’s a breakdown of every type of egg you can find (specific to burnbrae Farms):
Regular white eggs: These good ol’ regular eggs are still chock full of nutrition, boasting 6 grams of protein, as well as vitamin A, selenium, iron, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and vitamin E.
Super Bon-EE: These are oversized eggs that are 25% larger than regular large eggs.
“Prestige” eggs: These eggs are produced from young hens in the peak of their production. Eggs have a firm, smooth shell with a white and yolk that hold together well. They are packed to order in each plant, guaranteeing the freshest possible product. These eggs will stand up in the pan, are great for frying and perform well in baking.
Brown eggs: Many people thing that brown eggs are more nutritious than white. Not true! Brown eggs are produced by Rhode Island Red chickens, which are larger breed of bird that who consumes more feed (which is why they are a bit more expensive).
Free-run Omega-3: These eggs are produced by hens free to roam in open concept barns and have the added benefit of omega-3 and lutein. The hens are fed a multi-grain diet with added flaxseed, corn and alfalfa. They are a source of omega-3 fat (75 mg of DHA omega-3) per egg, and 300 µg of lutein per egg.
“Nestlaid”: As discussed above, these eggs come from hens raised in small groups that are free to perch and lay their eggs in a nesting area in a furnished cage environment. They are fed a diet of whole grains and other nutritious ingredients.
Nature’s Best eggs: The hens that produce Naturegg Nature’s Best eggs are on a vegetarian feeding program that contains no medications, antibiotics or animal by-products. The hen’s feed is also higher in Vitamins D, E and B12. These eggs are an excellent source of Vitamin D, have 3 times more Vitamin E and 60% more Vitamin B12 than regular eggs.
“Naturegg” Organic eggs: These eggs are produced by free range birds that have access to the outdoors, weather and environment conditions permitting. They live in wide open concept barns allowing them room to roam and have access to nests to lay their eggs. Their feed is grown on land that has had no herbicides, pesticides, or preservatives used on it in three years. They’re also packed in recyclable post-consumer plastic cartons that are recyclable where facilities exist.
Liquid eggs are made from eggs that are perfectly safe and nutritious, but perhaps had some shell-imperfections (which would mean that they couldn’t be sold as a shell egg). Liquid eggs have been pasteurized for food safety reasons (but this doesn’t affect the nutritional content).
Omega-3 Plus: Naturegg Omega Plus Liquid Eggs are lower in cholesterol and fat than regular eggs and contain omega-3 fats. Each 2 egg serving of Omega Plus Liquid eggs has 250 mg DHA omega-3 and 250 mg EPA omega-3.
Simply egg whites: Simply Egg Whites is made from 100% pure egg whites. Egg whites have no fat or cholesterol, however contain high quality protein three vitamins and minerals. These come in a free-run variety as well.
“Egg Creations”: Eggs creations are liquid eggs with added nutritious ingredients such as vegetables, herbs and cheese. These add convenience to making omelettes, egg muffins and frittatas in a flash.
Pre-package hardboiled eggs:
Eggs-2-go: These are Naturegg Omega 3 shell eggs that have been hard cooked and peeled for you!
For this post, I was lucky enough to partner with The Egg Farmers of Canada, who generously sent me to Burnbrae Farms. I only partner with organizations and brands that I believe in and who share the same nutrition philosophy as me. As always, opinions are my own.
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