To offer the public greater choice, some egg farmers supply specialty eggs. These eggs may be slightly different in nutrient value than regular eggs or they may come from hens housed or fed in a special way.
Omega-3 eggs are from hens fed a diet that contains 10 to 20 percent flaxseed. Flax contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which are important for lowering blood triglyceride levels and have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Health Canada's Nutrition Recommendations for Canadians suggest a daily intake of 1 to 1.5 g omega-3 fatty acids. Only a limited number of foods are rich in Omega-3 fats (fish, fish oils, canola oil, soybeans, flaxseed and some nuts). Enriching eggs with omega-3 provides another dietary source of this nutrient.
Omega-3 eggs contain 0.4 g omega-3 fatty acids compared to 0.04 g omega-3 fatty acids in regular eggs. Omega-3 eggs can also contain up to eight times more vitamin E than regular eggs.
It has been known for many years that polyunsaturated fatty acids play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease. Current research findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids are also required for normal growth and development and good vision.
The omega-3 egg can provide approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 enriched egg provides a dietary alternative to fish for these essential fatty acids. They offer the consumer greater choice.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one type of polyunsaturated fatty acid. A second type are called omega-6. Monounsaturated fatty acids are from the omega-9 family of fatty acids. Only omega-9 fatty acids can be synthesized by our bodies. We must obtain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from the foods we eat.
In this case it was the chicken! Omega-3 enriched eggs are produced by altering the diet of laying hens. Hens are fed a special diet which contains 10-20% ground flaxseed. Flaxseed is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in saturated fatty acids than other grains. As a result, the eggs produced from hens on this feed formula are higher in omega-3 fatty acids. The total fat content of the egg and the cholesterol level remains very similar.
Vitamin-enhanced eggs are from hens fed a nutritionally-enhanced diet containing higher levels of certain nutrients (e.g., vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12). As a result, the eggs produced will contain higher levels of these nutrients.
Organic eggs are produced by hens fed certified organic feeds. Organic eggs have the same nutritional content as regular eggs, but have been raised in a free-run/range housing environment. Check for a "certified organic" designation on the carton plus the name of the certifying organization.
Vegetarian eggs come from hens fed a diet containing only ingredients of plant origin.
Free-run housing gives hens access to the entire barn floor area. Hens are able to perch, scratch and lay their eggs in nesting boxes.
Free-range gives hens access to the outdoors and outdoor vegetation; weather permitting. Hens are able to perch, nest, dust bathe, scratch and forage. Due to the extremes in our climate, outdoor access is only seasonally available in Canada.
Processed eggs are shell eggs broken by special machines then pasteurized before being further processed and packaged in liquid, frozen or dried form. Though some products are available at grocery stores, many processed egg products are used by the foodservice and food manufacturing industries.