12 Jul 2010 --- A July 8 article in Time published under the headline “Organic Eggs: More Expensive, but No Healthier” misleads the consumer. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture research cited, as published in Poultry Science, includes no reference to certified organic eggs and says nothing about nutritional value, according to the Organic Trade Association, which reviewed the findings before writing a letter to Time to protest.
Haugh units, as pointed out by food technologist Deana Jones who was the lead author of the study conducted at the Agricultural Research Service’s Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit in Athens, GA, are essentially a measure of physical quality. This measurement has nothing to do with determining the health benefits of one egg versus another. In fact, the study did not examine nutritional differences. The headline drawing broad health conclusions from a quality measure misinterprets what USDA scientists are saying and confuses consumers, according to OTA.
What do organic eggs deliver in terms of benefits? Organic eggs are certified and inspected to verify the hens have access to the outdoors, have been fed 100% organic feed grown without toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Importantly, organic laying hens producing organic eggs are NEVER treated with antibiotics. The article incorrectly states that if organic hens are treated with antibiotics for illness, they temporarily lose their organic status when, in fact, they permanently lose this status.
A more relevant comparison on antibiotic use would be certified organic eggs versus all other eggs. In fact, the President’s Cancer Panel Report released in May exhorts consumers to choose food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones to help decrease their exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase their risk of contracting cancer. Organic products avoid the use of these chemicals.
The article continues to confuse by citing a risk factor for environmental contaminants in free-range OR organic farms. Which is it? They are not the same. The researcher states, “You really have to know the history of the land before you can be sure it’s safe.” Organic certification requires that farmers know and document the history of their and adjacent land. Through their farm’s organic quality systems plan, they mitigate any known risks.
Lastly, the price of organic eggs cited was grossly overstated. OTA on July 9 found organic eggs in major supermarkets priced at $2.79 to $3.99 per dozen. Given all the benefits organic eggs deliver, clearly they are worth it.