I promise this will be enlightening despite the unusually boring title.
Haven’t we all stood in front of the egg section at the market and wondered what kind of eggs we should buy? What do all those labels mean? Natural vs. Organic vs. Cage Free vs. Happy vs. Sad…you get the point. And if one carton doesn’t have a label that another does, is it better or worse for our bodies or the environment? So many questions just in pursuit of a good omelette!
So to help sort through the labels a 12-year-old chicken farmer and blogger led me to this very useful explainer of how to read egg cartons. I’ll need to bring this list with me to the market next time because I don’t have it memorized, but it’s a great reference.
The site also has a ton of helpful facts and answers to questions about eco-living, food choices, local farms and other environmental news.
Here’s a few explainers, but get the whole list from ‘Circle of Responsibility‘:
Certified Organic: The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, and are required to have outdoor access (although there have been concerns about lax enforcement, with some large-scale producers not providing birds meaningful access to the outdoors). They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Debeaking and forced molting through starvation are permitted. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing.
Free-Range: While the USDA has defined the meaning of “free-range” for some poultry products, there are no standards in “free-range” egg production. Typically, free-range egg-laying hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have some degree of outdoor access. They can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. However, there is no information on stocking density, the frequency or duration of outdoor access, or the quality of the land accessible to the birds. There is no information regarding what the birds can be fed. Debeaking and forced molting through starvation may be permitted. There is no third-party auditing.
Cage-Free: As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but generally do not have access to the outdoors. They have the ability to engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting, and spreading their wings. Debeaking and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing.
Omega-3 Enriched: Eggs carrying this label have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids than other eggs. This is achieved by mixing flaxseed, a grain high in omega-3s, into the hen’s feed.