Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, whereas omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, therefore counteracting the inflammatory effects of omega-6. So whenever possible, we want to reduce our intake of omega-6, and increase our intake of omega-3.
In his book An Inflammation Nation, Dr. Sunil Pai writes that free-range chickens eat vegetables, insects, and fresh green grass, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, whereas factory-farmed chickens are fed mostly corn.
As a result, free-range chicken eggs have an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:1.5, whereas factory-produced eggs have an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio as high as 1:20!
So every time you eat a non-free-range egg, you’re getting as much as 14 times the inflammatory omega-6 that you would have gotten by eating a free-range egg.
He then offers this chart, which depicts the omega-3 to omega-6 ratios of not only farm-raised chicken eggs vs. factory-produced eggs, but also includes the same for beef:
As you can see, farm-raised (grass fed) is the way to go, hands down.
But it’s not enough to simply shop for eggs labeled free-range, as the label definitions are vague to meaningless. Like the simple misconception that cage-free is equivalent to free-range, an industry labeling practice used deceptively to imply that the chickens are pasture-raised, but the reality is, they’re nothing of the kind.
Organic: These eggs are certified to have been laid by cage-free or free-range hens raised on organic feed and with access to the outdoors. However, a recent report by the Cornucopia Institute indicates that many larger producers don’t always comply with these requirements (especially the outdoor access). Most small-scale farmers were found to be in compliance.
Cage-free: Means the hens can roam in a building, room or open area instead of a battery cage, a 16×20-inch cage that houses up to 11 birds. It does not necessarily mean that hens have access to the outdoors. Nor does it indicate how much room they have to move around.
Free-range: Eggs labeled free-range were laid by hens that have access to the outdoors. This can simply mean the hens have an indoor space connected to an outdoor area—not that they are roaming around “free.” In addition to eating grain these hens may forage for wild plants and insects.
So as you can see, being careful as to how your eggs are labeled still won’t guarantee that you’re getting healthy, nutritious eggs from healthy, pasture-raised chickens; in fact, most likely they’re not, regardless of how they’re labeled.
About the only way to ensure the quality of the eggs you buy is to source them from local farmers, and inquire with them as to how their chickens are raised.
As for me, this would be difficult if not impossible here in Las Vegas…so instead, I began rigorously reading labels and researching in an attempt to find truly pasture-raised and healthy eggs.
And I’m now happy to report: I’ve finally found healthy, pasture-raised eggs!