Whether or not you’re on a paleo diet, you’re likely on the hunt for delicious foods with protein. In fact, if you want to optimize health, price and taste, I’m a strong believer in a paleo diet staple: eggs. They’re versatile, delicious and packed with protein. I was told once there are 143 ways to cook eggs, although I personally rotate between five or so variations. And the average egg packs between six and seven protein grams.
Right now, eggs are especially cheap. While prices spiked in 2015 thanks to an outbreak of avian flu, they’ve been on the way back down for some time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dozen eggs ran you $1.41 in May—more than a quarter lower year-over-year. Meanwhile, 2015 prices hovered near $3 in the fall.
Paleo Diet Pricing
Walk into a grocery store to buy some eggs, though, and you’ll see a wide variety of prices pasted onto those cartons. The value perception of a dozen eggs has everything to do with production and packaging. The most strict followers of a paleo diet will be especially tuned into where, exactly, their foods with protein are coming from.
Online, you can buy a dozen “California Ranch Fresh” large eggs for just $1.86 a dozen. But as NPR reported last year, monikers like “fresh” and “farm fresh” mean…well…absolutely nothing. All but 5% of eggs produced in the U.S. come from chickens raised in battery cages, which leave each bird just 100 or so square inches of space. That includes eggs that claim to be “fresh.”
A price notch up will get you Happy Belly’s eggs, which include the labels: cage free and free to roam, 100% vegetarian fed, and hormone and antibiotic free. The “room to roam” part is the most important here; as NPR reported, cage free often merely upgrades hens from battery cages to one square foot of space. The main red flag, though, is the vegetarian diet, which probably means corn. While this is a common label, hens are actually omnivores.
Another option is Organic Valley. For $5.11 per dozen, consumers get even more detail about the lives of the birds laying their protein-packed eggs. explains that its extra-large eggs are organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, pasture-raised, cage-free and rich in omega three thanks to a flax seed bird diet. “Gluten-free” is the best example of how companies are attempting to portray value perception; with eggs, it should (in theory) be a no-brainer. Already, too, you can see the trend: the more of these labels, the more dollars out of your pocket. Sometimes the extra cost is worth it. But if you can’t find specifics on what each part of the label actually refers to, it’s probably not.
For a little over two dollars more (up to $8.99 per dozen?), Vital Farms also offers pasture raised eggs, explaining that the birds are indeed free to come and go from their barn whenever they like—something that’s not true, according to NPR, of many “free to roam” type labels. At this point, though, you’re paying 67 cents per egg—hardly the bargain I had in mind when I was talking about optimizing price and health.
Add it up, and one thing’s pretty clear: Eggs may be a cheap snack and great source of protein, but they’re not all created or priced equally. Companies work hard to portray the value of their eggs, but some labels still ring hollow. If you’re going to shell out more money for a dozen, make sure the company’s shelling out plenty of details on what exactly you’re paying for.