Plant Based Bride

One woman's thoughts on the science and morality behind the choice to live without animal products. And possibly a blog post or two about centrepieces.

The Truth About Eggs

A month ago I put together a post on the dairy industry and why I will never again support it - but eggs have gone largely uncovered on my blog, that is, until today.  Let's talk facts!

Are eggs healthy?  Are hens happy on egg farms?  Are eggs good for the environment?  Find out now!  What you learn may just surprise you.

H E A L T H

Most people claim to eat eggs for the health benefits, especially their protein content.  Let's consider the actual makeup of an egg:

An egg is 2% carbohydrates, 63% fats, and 35% protein.  One  large egg (50g) contains approximately 211mg of cholesterol, no fibre, and 2g of saturated fat (almost half of the total fat content).

Now let's take a look at what this means for the human body.

Carbohydrates

The 100 000 billion cells in our body rely on carbohydrates as their main source of energy, as each and every cell can use them for fuel.  We need carbohydrates for all of our major systems including the central nervous system, the heart, and the brain to function properly and they are the easiest macronutrient to convert to energy.  For a food touted as the perfect health food, you would think it would be made up of more than 2% of our ideal energy source!

Fat

While we need a small amount of fat in our diets for maintaining cell membranes and providing cushioning for organs, it is widely accepted that a high-fat diet is an unhealthy one.  Recommendations for fat intake from physicians and nutritionists range from 35% of daily calories on the high end to 10% on the low end.  

Not only are eggs high in total fat, but they are high in saturated fat - the single biggest contributor to high cholesterol and heart disease (which killed more than 17.5 million people in 2012).

Cholesterol

From Virginia Tech's Educational Report on Heart Healthy Eating: "A cholesterol lowering diet should first be low in total fat, especially saturated fat, as well as cholesterol."

The only foods that contain cholesterol are animal products, with egg yolks and organ meats ranking highest for cholesterol content.  It is recommended that those with heart disease, high cholesterol, or diabetes keep their dietary cholesterol intake to below 200mg per day - less than that found in a single egg.  There is also the (often unmentioned) fact that the human body has no need whatsoever for dietary cholesterol.  We make 100% of the cholesterol we need for normal, healthy functioning in our own bodies, and never to excess.

"Patients at risk of cardiovascular disease should limit their intake of cholesterol.  Stopping the consumption of egg yolks after a stroke or myocardial infarction would be like quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer: a necessary action, but late." - Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: Not for patients at risk of vascular disease

But what about egg whites?  While it's true that the majority of the fat and cholesterol is found in the yolk, and if your only concern is reducing dietary cholesterol intake eliminating the yolk may seem like the solution,  the unfortunate truth is that the egg white is a much more concentrated vessel for animal protein than the whole egg, and that's not so good for us either.

Protein

Protein has been hailed the most important macronutrient in popular culture for decades, and while it is very important for proper growth in children, tissue repair, preserving muscle mass, and creating essentials hormones and enzymes (among other things), we don't need NEARLY as much of it as people think.  The average healthy adult of either gender requires 0.66g of protein per day per kg of weight, meaning a 150lb (68kg) person would need 44.9g of protein per day to meet their daily protein needs.  This is easily achievable in a vegan diet, and is quickly surpassed in a vegetarian or omnivorous one.

So what's the problem with getting more protein?  Excess protein increases the risk of kidney disease, kidney stones, and some types of cancer.  Animal protein in particular has a startling effect on the growth of cancerous tumours, as seen in the extensive research done by Colin T. Campbell in The China Study.

 
 

Fibre

Eggs are completely devoid of fibre, which is essential for eliminating waste.  Low fibre diets can cause constipation, hemorrhoids, and an increased risk of colon cancer while high fibre diets reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity and lower cholesterol.

Salmonella

More than 100,000 people are poisoned by salmonella-tainted eggs per year in the US alone and experience diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps for up to a week.

Diabetes

A  review of fourteen studies conducted on the effect of egg consumption on diabetes concluded that highest egg intake increased the risk of developing diabetes by 68% compared to those who consumed the least.

Cancer

Egg consumption has an effect on the development on many types of cancer:

  • Consuming 1.5 eggs per week resulted in almost 5 times higher risk of colon cancer when compared to those who consumed less than 11 eggs per year;
  • Men who consume 2.5 eggs per week increase their risk for developing a deadly form of prostate cancer by 81% when compared to those who consume less than half an egg per week;
  • The WHO found that eating eggs is associated with death from colon and rectal cancer when analyzing data from 34 countries in 2003, and;
  • Moderate egg consumption was found to triple the risk of developing bladder cancer in a 2005 study published in International Urology and Nephrology.

Do you still think that eggs are a healthy choice?

 

A N I M A L   R I G H T S

As if the health risks of consuming eggs weren't convincing enough, life is not pleasant for the hens and chicks on factory farms.

While chickens can live up to 14 years on average, hens only lay eggs for about two of those.  Guess how many years they're allowed to live on factory farms?  Correct.  Two.  What happens next?  They are sent to the slaughterhouse, as they are no longer "useful" for anything but their flesh.

It begins at birth: chicks will never see their mothers and are quickly separated, males from females.  Many die from the rough treatment in automated sorting machines.  The females are kept and raised to lay, but what about the males?  They are of no use to the egg industry and are either thrown in trash bags to suffocate or ground up alive.  Babies, only days old, are GROUND UP ALIVE.  By the millions.  “There is, unfortunately, no way to breed eggs that only produce female hens.  If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we’re happy to provide them to anyone who wants them. But we can find no market, no need.” - Mitch Head, the spokesperson for United Egg Producers.  How is this allowed to go on?

Life for the females may be longer, but is full of suffering nonetheless.  Crammed into tiny battery cages, 5 to 11 in each, they are stacked on top of each other allowing the filth from cages above to drop into those below.  Dead and diseased hens may be left to decompose in the cages with the living (who are producing eggs for human consumption, mind you),  causing further death and disease.

Due to the crammed and stressful living conditions the birds are subjected to, farmers clip off the tips of their sensitive beaks, full of nerve endings, to prevent hens pecking each other to death.

Many turn to organic or "free-range" eggs, under the impression that the hens live happier lives.  That is not necessarily the case.  Labels on egg cartons, other than "organic", are not subject to any government regulations.  That means that there is no government body keeping tabs on the conditions at egg farms ensuring that birds are treated humanely and approving "free-range" status.

Many organic and “free-range” farms are just like factory farms in the way they crowd thousands of birds into sheds or on muddy lots and debeak the hens.  Most hens never have the chance to go outside and breathe fresh, clean air.  Male chicks are disposed of in the exact same way as on factory farms and death and disease from less-than-ideal conditions still occur regularly.

There is another similarity.  The hens will still be sent to slaughter once egg production stops a mere 7th into their lives.  The suffering they experience during their lives may be incrementally less than those on factory farms, but they are still only allowed to live until they can no longer bring in a profit.

Chickens are smart, funny, and have distinct personalities from one another.  They have a sense of time and can communicate using more than 24 different vocalizations, beginning even before hatching.  By the time they have broken out of their shell they can recognize their mother's voice.  Chickens have very good memories and can not only count, but understand geometry.  They are caring beings who develop relationships and learn from observing the habits of others.  

They don't deserve to experience only suffering each and every day of their lives, which are being cut so incredibly short.

Make the healthiest and most compassionate choice available and stop including eggs in your diet today!

Until next time,

The truth about the egg industry.

What surprised you most about eggs - their negative impact on health or the horrifying conditions of farms?

Not sure what to read next?  Try How To Go Vegan or 10 Reasons To Go Vegan!

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