CHAMPAIGN, IL (August 26, 2011) Eggs produced by free-range hens are often perceived by the public to be nutritionally superior to eggs obtained from layers kept in traditional battery cages. However, a recent scientific study has called this popular perception into question by finding essentially no differences in the nutritional quality of eggs produced by hens from both management systems, said the Poultry Science Association (PSA).The findings also showed that cholesterol levels in all eggs were lower than U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, prompting the USDA to review and revise downward its estimates for average cholesterol levels in eggs.
The study, "Comparison of Fatty Acid, Cholesterol, and Vitamin A and E Composition in Eggs from Hens Housed in Conventional Cage and Range Production Facilities," appeared in the July issue of Poultry Science, a journal published by PSA. Its author, Dr. Kenneth E. Anderson, a Professor in the Department of Poultry Science at North Carolina State University, collected data for the study in 2008 and 2009. The study was conducted concurrently with the North Carolina Layer Performance and Management Test (NCLP&MT), which evaluates the major commercial layer lines used in the United States.
"The key take away from this research is that an egg, no matter where it's produced, is a very nutritious product. Eggs from a range production environment did have higher levels of total fat than eggs produced by caged hens, but they did not have higher levels of cholesterol. Perhaps the most striking finding was that both cage- and range-produced eggs actually have lower cholesterol levels than previously believed, which has led the USDA to lower the cholesterol guidelines for eggs in the USDA Nutrient Database for shell eggs to 185 mg per egg, down from 213 mg," said Dr. Anderson.
Dr. Anderson conducted his study in North Carolina using more than 400 Hy-Line B
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