By Barbara Krooss –
The average American gobbles down almost 300 chicken eggs in any given year, Statista reports. For the most part, that’s a good thing because eggs are one of the most nutrient-rich foods available. But as one observer noted, “chicken eggs can get clucking boring.” Thankfully, there are lots of different types of eggs available, some of which, like pheasant, goose and duck eggs, are even more nutritious than the ones laid by chickens.
Munching down on these eggs, let alone those produced by Guinea fowl, turkeys, quail, emus or ostriches, may seem a bit of a stretch if not downright exotic. But they all pack their own special flavors and benefits. They are also usually much more accessible than people realize.
Flagging egg alternatives is no slap on the ubiquitous chicken offering. These popular eggs come in three standardized sizes, jumbo, large and pee wee. They are all packed with nutrients. One Grade A large egg, for example, weighs about 50 grams and has about 72 calories, five grams of fat and six grams of protein. Their taste and nutritional composition are determined by the species of chicken involved and, not surprisingly, their diet.
Farm-raised chickens will lay eggs that are less “gamey” tasting than those birds who forage for food. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) adds that eggs from pasture-raised chickens are the healthiest. They have less cholesterol and saturated fat, more vitamin A and up to two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene, and four to six times more vitamin D and other farm-raised chickens. Supplementing feed that contains fish oil, flaxseed or omega-3 supplements boosts an egg’s nutrition even further.
Quail eggs are a well-known alternative and prized by many as a delicacy. Cherry-sized with creamy brown speckled shells and proportionately large yolks, it takes about five and a half of these little guys to make up for one 50-gram chicken egg. In comparison, they have a combined total of 77 calories, 5.5. grams of fat and six grams of protein as well as lots of vitamin D and B 12, selenium, riboflavin, choline and iron. They are rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants and contain ovomucoid and ovoinhibitor that help thwart allergic reactions. If there is anything to complain about when it comes to quail eggs is that they are hard to peel.
Guinea fowl eggs are produced by an African descent bird that was brought to the Caribbean about 500 years. It takes about one and a quarter Guinea fowl egg to compare to a standard chicken egg. When this happens, the Guinea fowl portion will have only 56 calories and 4.4 grams of fat, but three times the protein at a whopping 18.8 grams. They are also rich in Omaga-3, vitamin B complex, vitamin A, choline and minerals. Their large yolks also make them great for baking.
Duck eggs are prized by cooks and bakers because of their rich, smooth taste. They are also bigger on average than chicken eggs, which means it takes about three-quarters of a duck egg to match up to a Grade A large chicken egg. When the same amount is placed side by side, the duck egg comes up as more nutritious than a chicken egg. It has 98 calories, 6.8 grams of fat and 6.4 grams of protein, lots of potassium, calcium, vitamin B complex, protein, and iron. They are pricey, however, at about $10 a dozen, although they are easy to find. One added plus is that individuals allergic to chicken eggs may be able to eat duck eggs.
Pheasant eggs are similar in size to duck eggs and they are slightly more nutritious than chicken eggs. A 50-gram serving of Pheasant eggs has 85 calories, 7.8 grams of fat and 6.9 grams of protein. They reportedly have a light taste that is similar to quail eggs. During the April to June breeding season, farmed pheasants produce 40 to 60 eggs a year, selling for about $7 to $15 per dozen.
Turkey eggs are like quail eggs but a lot bigger—about twice the size of a chicken egg. This means half a turkey egg has 86 calories, six grams of fat and seven grams of protein. This beats a chicken egg on all three counts. With thicker whites and large cholesterol-laden yolks, they help make great pastries. They are farmed commercially, but they are still not abundant. Since turkeys only lay about two eggs a week, they are expensive at about $36 a dozen.
Goose eggs may take the prize for being the healthiest egg. They aren’t as plentiful as duck or chicken eggs, but they have a dense taste and are nutritious. They are rich in iron, folate, calcium and omega-3 fats, vitamins A, B, D and E. A 50-gram serving as 93 calories, 6.79 grams of fat and seven grams of protein.
Emu eggs are really big, weighing one to one and a half pounds each. One egg is therefore equivalent to 12 to 18 chicken eggs. A 50-gram serving of Emu eggs has 74 calories, 4.4 grams of fat, but under half a chicken egg’s protein at 2.6 grams. They are also expensive since these giant, flightless Australian birds only lay eggs every 3 or 4 days during the Northern winter season. One egg comes with a price tag of about $75.
Ostrich eggs are the undisputed champs with it comes to weight. Each one tips the scales at three to five pounds, making them at least 24 larger than a chicken egg. Their 6-inch shells are also 20 times thicker than the shell of a chicken egg. One big ostrich egg has 2,000 calories, 100 grams of fat and 235 grams of protein. Little wonder given their size that it can take one to two hours to hard boil one of these eggs. Size aside, they are nutritionally similar to chicken eggs as they contain about 45 percent fat, 47 percent protein and are rich in choline, vitamin B12, folic acid and riboflavin. A similar serving has less vitamin E than chicken eggs and more magnesium and iron. They can be hard to find as an ostrich lays only 40 to 60 eggs a year. Despite this, they are reasonably affordable compared to an Emu egg at about $30 each.
These eggs contain good cholesterol. It is therefore safe to eat up to three chicken eggs a day or an equivalent 150-gram serving of any alternative eggs. The USDA requires the pasteurization of commercially produced eggs of any kind by rapid heating to destroy bacteria. It also requires refrigeration from farm to store. Refrigerated chicken eggs are usually good for four weeks. One benefit of larger alternative eggs is that they have thicker shells that extend their shelf life even longer.