Sadly, my view is probably not totally gluten free, no. Ooh controversial.
C sent in a question recently asking about this and included a link she found to an article discussing this very subject: Are Eggs Gluten Free?
If you think of the traditional gliadin free diet rules, eggs are said to be gluten free. But, for those people who are hyper-sensitive, much like grain-fed meat, they can react to eggs from grain-fed chickens. I usually eat and recommend the Woodland ones (from supermarkets) which will of course have come from chickens who have had some supplemental grain feed but probably not as much as other types of chicken. Anyway, I have found I react to other eggs but not the woodland ones.
It sounds daft, doesn’t it? But then so does reacting to grain fed meat and we know many of us do that. It could be a problem more of cross-contamination, of course, or a problem with a reaction to the egg itself, but some people could indeed be hyper-sensitive to the grain proteins in eggs.
As the article says:
Can Gluten-Eating Chickens Produce Gluten-Containing Eggs?
Now, this may seem pretty far-fetched, but there’s actually a bit of scientific evidence that indicates it may be possible for proteins or protein fragments to pass from chicken feed into the eggs themselves (gluten is a protein).
An Ohio State University graduate student experimented with feeding chickens a diet high in soy protein to see if he could influence the amount of soy isoflavones (a component of soy protein) in those chickens’ eggs. He found that he could: chickens fed the high-soy diet routinely produced eggs higher in isoflavones. (You can read the thesis here)
Now, obviously this experiment did not involve gluten grains. However, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that it’s possible for gluten-eating chickens to produce eggs that contain a tiny bit of gluten protein (or, more likely, gluten protein fragments).
If these eggs did have gluten in them, it would be a very small amount — likely far below even 1 part per million (for comparison, foods are generally considered “gluten-free” if they contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten, or are less than 0.0001% gluten). Commercially available tests for gluten in foods can’t reliably detect gluten below around 3 parts per million, so it’s impossible to say how much gluten, if any, actually is in these eggs.
But yes, some people are sensitive to gluten at those levels, and they’ve reported seeing their symptoms resolve when they drop eggs from gluten-fed chickens. They’ve been able to eat eggs again by sourcing them directly from farmers who don’t feed their chickens gluten grains.
Personally, I would love to find a farmer who doesn’t feed their chickens grains but have failed to do so. As far as my information goes, when I asked the chicken powers that be (some association of chicken farming, I forget now), chickens have to be fed with grain or they cannot survive. Is this true, does anyone know?
Some comments on chickens generally on the TGF Food page seem to suggest it is indeed do-able so perhaps it is the UK guidance that is saying so (or the grain food manufacturers, she says cynically…). A conundrum.
Another case of something supposed to be naturally gluten free, but is altered by production processes and is tested gluten free (for gliadin again though note, not actual gluten) but that some react to. Is it the grains? I assume so, yes. Luckily, most people seem OK with the less grain-fed chicken eggs, though.