In this Issue:
Healthy Egg Buying Guide
These days, eggs cartons are covered with health claims and so-called benefits and advantages. How do you know what's significant and what's just marketing hype?
BPA Found in Unexpected New Source
You may already be aware of the toxic chemical BPA that's used in water bottles and food cans. But there's an even more common source of exposure to this toxin.
A Healthy Egg Buying Guide
Although eggs have gotten a bad rap for some time now -- all because of their high cholesterol content -- they're anything but bad guys. Actually, eggs are a near-perfect food, providing excellent quality protein, nutrients and important omega 3 fats -- all wrapped in nature's finest packaging! They're rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, and the mineral selenium, a powerful antioxidant-booster.
What's the Truth About Cholesterol? First of all, your blood cholesterol levels are not in any way related to your consumption of cholesterol-containing foods. Almost all of your cholesterol is manufactured by your liver to become a life-sustaining component of your blood. Furthermore, there is no correlation between blood cholesterol levels and the rate of heart disease, regardless of how universally-accepted this belief has become.
If you still believe the cholesterol myth, I recommend you go to my page on What Causes Heart Disease? where I reveal the fallacy in that theory.
These days, eggs cartons are covered with health claims and so-called benefits and advantages attributed to the eggs inside. How do you know what's significant and what's just marketing hype? I'm going to translate everything you might encounter on a typical carton of eggs for you, right here, and make your next purchasing decision easier.
Various Labeling Designations That You'll See on Egg Cartons - and What They Mean
Grade (as in Grade A): The grade is based on egg size and overall "quality," but it says nothing about how the hens were raised.
Color of the Shell: Eggs have been primarily white for a many years, now they’re typically brown. There's no difference between the two; it's just about whatever's in fashion.
All Vegetarian Feed: Chickens are actually not vegetarian; they naturally prefer worms and bugs, along with grass and grains. This description simply means that the feed does not contain animal byproducts, which are less desirable than grain feed.
Omega 3 enriched: The hens are fed flax, fish or other supplements to raise omega 3 levels. The amount of omega 3 fats will vary depending on the feed; Look for a specification for the amount of DHA, the most beneficial type of omega 3. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which comes from vegetarian sources, is beneficial as well, but much less so. See Sources of Omega 3 Fats - Which Ones are the Best? to find good sources of omega 3's.
Farm-Fresh: Straight from the marketing department copywriter -- and meaningless.
Cage-Free: Simply means they are not kept in individual cages, but they still are likely housed in crowded and dirty living conditions. You don't really know.
Free-Range: Access to the outdoors is required, but many of the hens stay inside. Otherwise, pretty much like cage-free - the definition is vague and potentially misleading. Their feed, which may contain chicken parts, is infused with antibiotics to try to prevent the diseases they will inevitably get living in these conditions.
The chickens pictured above could be defined as "cage-free" and “free range” as long as they have “access to the outdoors.” This could be a small door at one corner of the barn that is open for a short period of time each day. The chickens that aren’t in close proximity to that door probably will never go outside.
Organic: Only organic feed, no antibiotics (unless sick), must not be in cages and must have “access” to outdoors. Again, the descriptions are somewhat vague.
No antibiotics or hormones used: Always a good thing to look for. You don't want your eggs full of antibiotics or steroids.
Pastured: Not a regulated category, but it suggests that the hens spend much of their time roaming about a large outdoor area foraging for bugs and grass. True free-range, pastured eggs have darker and firmer yolks because the hens are free to eat their natural diet.
Humane Certification: You might see a label like “Certified Humane Raised & Handled“. This is a pretty good indication that the hens were treated well.
Processing and Handling of Eggs
There are vast differences in how eggs are processed and handled, even under the "certified organic" label.
There is a significant difference between factory-raised eggs versus small-farm eggs when it comes to processing and handling. Normally, when a hen lays an egg, a secretion coats the egg to protect it from bacteria until it’s ready to hatch (in several weeks). Most factories use a chemical wash (including things like chlorine and lye) to clean the eggs, which also removes this protective coating. These agents serve mostly as sanitizers, rather than washing agents. However, they make the porous shell far more vulnerable to salmonella.
To protect the eggs, producers add a thin film of mineral oil. This is sometimes done to organic eggs as well, although organic egg producers may use vegetable oil as a more natural alternative. It's unlikely that an organic farmer would choose to use mineral oil or other harmful substances when cleaning and processing eggs, but the regulations are so variable from state to state, you just can't be certain.
Not all eggs undergo oiling, either, but most larger producers do this. Eggs from small farms that maintain the natural coating are not only naturally protected from bacteria, but can be kept unrefrigerated for a month without spoiling.
Regulations for Egg Producers Vary From State to State. There are different federal and state regulations for egg farmers, depending on what the eggs will be used for. Every state has its own specific egg laws, which makes it more complicated to figure out what process your eggs have gone through.
So the truth is that, unless you can contact the farm that your eggs came from, you can’t be sure what process the eggs have gone through. That's another good reason to buy eggs locally if at all possible.
How to Avoid Salmonella -- and Find Safe Eggs
Eggs from large factory farms have many times more salmonella than eggs from smaller, organic farms. About 95 percent of the eggs produced in the United States come from these gigantic egg factories housing millions of hens under one roof, in typically unsanitary conditions where bacteria can breed easily.
The best eggs can't be found in a supermarket, but from a small farmer you get to know and trust. Fortunately, most rural areas have small farmers with chickens. If you live in an urban area, visit your local health food store. They might carry a local farm's eggs or know of a place to get them. Farmers markets are another great way to meet farmers who produce naturally-grown eggs as well as other fresh organic foods.
How to Find Local Sources for Truly Natural Eggs.
Local Harvest.org's website allows you to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably-grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, free-range pastured eggs and many other food items.
Eatwild.com's Directory of Farms lists more than 1,300 pasture-based farms, with more farms being added each week. It is the most comprehensive source for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada. Products include: all types of meat and game, eggs, milk, cheeses, produce, nuts, berries, wild-caught salmon and more!
How to Find the Best
Name-Brand and Private-Label Organic Eggs.
The Cornucopia Institute's organic egg scorecard rates name-brand and private-label organic eggs based on 22 criteria. You can see which brands of eggs found in your region are produced using the best organic farming practices and ethics.
The Institute's website also has an organic dairy and soy scorecard which shows you who produces the highest-quality organic products in these categories.
The Cornucopia Institute is on my list of worthwhile organizations to support in the campaign for increased sustainable and organic agriculture.
You'll find the link to their website, along with several others, in the right hand column of all of my web pages. Please take a minute to look them over and pay a visit to their websites. Make a contribution if you can -- the future of the world's food supply depends on organizations like these.
Latest News on BPA
New research has turned up another unexpected source that may be the most significant one yet.
The chemical BPA has been in the news quite a bit lately, so you are might already be aware of this ubiquitous toxin. It's gotten known well enough to spark a whole new industry offering BPA-free food containers and other products that typically use BPA.
BPA is an industrial chemical used to make plastic hard. It's commonly used in water bottles, infant bottles and food and beverage cans. Almost all of the canned food and beverage products on the market are lined with a resin made from BPA, and have been for a long time. These epoxy resins do perform an important function, preventing compounds in the food from reacting with the metal, causing spoilage and even exploding cans. Research has shown that the chemical can leach from these materials into food, however, and a number of tests have found high levels of BPA in most adults and children.
BPA mimics the effects of the female sex hormone estrogen in the body, with potentially serious effects on development, the reproductive system and the brain. New revelations about BPA has caused the FDA to revisit its stance that BPA is safe. The EPA has also declared it to be of concern.
Recent test have revealed that the most significant source of BPA exposure may be the thermal receipt paper used by retailers today, which is loaded with BPA. These receipts are almost-universally used in retail outlets of all kinds. The BPA comes off very easily when it comes into contact with your skin.
So the next time a checkout clerk hands you a thermal receipt, handle it carefully and limit the amount of contact with your skin. If you work in a job where you handle these receipts all day, wear latex gloves for protection and dispose of them without touching the exposed surface any more than you have to.
Worthwhile Causes to Support
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) works to protect the public from harm due to toxic contaminants. Their website has lots of great information that will help you identify the threats from toxins and make it easy for you to voice your opinion on environmental issues to your congressman and other policy-makers.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a grassroots, non-profit public interest organization that promotes and supports organic agriculture and addresses issues related to it, including food safety, food politics and GM technology.
The OCA is actively working to stop Monsanto from spreading GM agriculture around the world and gaining control of the world food supply. You can sign up here to support their campaign,Millions Against Monsanto.
The Institute for Responsible Technology is a world leader in educating policy makers and the public about genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. Founded in 2003 by international bestselling author and GMO expert Jeffrey Smith, the IRT works to mobilize citizens, organizations, healthcare professionals and the media to discover the truth about GM foods.
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