Eggs are a food staple. Scrambled, fried, poached, sunny-side up, (and for the holidays, in nog form) any way you like them, eggs will never be just a breakfast food. Packed with nutrients, protein, fiber, and carotenoids, this superfood comes in many varieties.

Stroll passed the refrigerated egg section and you are sure to be overwhelmed with the plethora of eggs to choose from. Not only are there different colors and sizes of eggs (medium, large, extra large, jumbo), but nowadays, we get to select from free-range, cage-free, and even eggs from antibiotic/hormone-free chickens. But what do all these labels mean and what type of egg should you be buying? Let's get cracking.

White vs. Brown Eggs

egg, egg yolk
Parisa Soraya

White eggs just look so plain, but that does not mean you should cross them off your shopping list. The difference between white and brown eggs are simply the type of chickens that lay them. The brown feathered chickens that lay brown eggs are usually larger, and in turn, require more food and space to nurture. As a result, a carton of brown eggs costs more than a carton of white eggs.

So next time you reach for brown eggs simply because of the color, take a closer look at what the farmer is actually feeding their chickens, for that is what really counts (explained in depth below).

Does size matter?

egg, egg yolk, fried egg, omelet
Sara Mickow

Eggs are separated by size after the farmers have collected all the eggs laid by the chicken. All abnormal eggs, like eggs with thin eggshells, are filtered out and discarded. Size does not determine the quality of the eggs.

Cage-Free Eggs

tea, coffee, cheese, beer, pizza
Maria Gabriela Jorge

The "Cage-free" label seems quite straightforward, but it is not entirely what it seems. Cage-free eggs come from chickens who are uncaged and free to roam around in pens. However, these chickens are usually crammed into smaller quarters with little to no outdoor access.

Free-Range/Pasture-Raised Eggs

Free-Range chickens live similarly to cage-free chickens, uncaged and free to roam. But, these chickens are also given outdoor access. This outdoor roaming means that these chickens can forage for their own natural food. 

Organic Eggs

Organic eggs come from organic chickens. These chickens consume organic feed and are free of antibiotics and hormones. Although organic chicken farmers must abide the USDA regulations, the organization does not explicitly state whether or not the chickens are caged or uncaged.

So, what eggs should you buy?

According to a test done where Mother Earth News compared the official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data of commercial versus pasteurized eggs, they found that pasteurized eggs did contain slightly more Vitamin A, E and Omega-3s.

In my opinion, that is great, but since pasteurized eggs are usually from local farmers and are harder to seek, I would stick to buying commercial chicken laid eggs. As a matter of cage-free, free-range, or organic, the type of eggs you purchase just depends on what you prioritize.
milk, dairy product, egg, egg yolk, sweet, cream
Paige Marie Rodgers

Next time, when selecting which eggs to purchase, be sure to take a look at the egg carton labelling. Most egg cartons will state certain qualities, but be wary, as some of the labels can be misleading and stretching the truth of their egg quality. The biggest difference nutritionally lies between farm fresh and all other eggs.

So, if you can find local eggs and are willing to pay a couple dollars more, farm fresh and local eggs are the type of egg for you. Otherwise, for a college student, where egg farms are not easily accessible, conventional eggs will do.