The Skinny on... Eggs

Once you’ve decoded the carton, here’s how to enjoy this nutrient-rich, versatile food.
Published November 6, 2015

Chances are, you’ve probably been ditching egg yolks (or avoiding eggs entirely) for years, thinking you were doing your heart a favour. But current research suggests that eggs may not be the demons they’ve been made out to be.

Recent research shows that healthy adults can enjoy an egg every day without increasing their risk of heart disease. (If you’re unsure whether this applies to you, consult your doctor.)

Safe cracking

Egg safety tips from Health Canada

  • Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
  • Eggs should be refrigerated as soon as possible in their original carton, which acts as a protector.
  • Keep the eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator—not in the door.
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw eggs.
  • To avoid potential cross contamination and help prevent the spread of foodborne illness, clean and sanitize all cooking equipment, utensils and work surfaces with a mild bleach solution.
  • Don’t keep raw or cooked eggs out of the refrigerator more than two hours.
  • Egg dishes such as deviled eggs or egg salad should be used within 3 to 4 days.

Since eggs are chock-full of nutrients, relatively low in calories, inexpensive and delicious in everything from breakfast to late-night snacks, that’s good news all around. If only the seemingly endless variety of carton labels weren’t so confusing...

How to read an egg carton
It used to be that only two things mattered: size (from Peewee to Jumbo, though most recipes call for Large) and grade (with Canada A being the highest). And while brown eggs cost more, “brown” only indicates the colour of the laying hen’s feathers! These days though, a visit to the supermarket confirms that things have changed, with more egg varieties on display than would fit in a carton. Here’s what it all means according to Egg Farmers of Canada:

Free run eggs
Hens roam the barn and have nesting boxes. These eggs are a little pricier.

Free range eggs
Hens have access to the outdoors when weather permits; like free run eggs, these are pricier.

Omega-3 eggs
These come from hens that are fed a diet containing flaxseed and/or fish oils, providing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the eggs.

Vitamin-enhanced eggs
The hens are given diets containing higher levels of certain nutrients, usually vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 or lutein.

Certified organic eggs
These eggs are produced according to a national organic standard and are often the most expensive. The hens are given organic feed and the hens must have access to the outdoors, weather permitting.

Vegetarian eggs
The hens’ feed contains only ingredients of plant origin.

Young pullet eggs
These eggs are produced by young hens of between 19 to 35 weeks of age. Pullets produce eggs with harder shells.