What does your egg's label mean?

When you go to buy eggs, it can be very overwhelming! The prices range from $1 (on sale) to over $5 a dozen. When you stand there, you remember: "Oh. I meant to research what the difference is between these eggs! Cr**. What do I buy? I'll go with organic because it sounds good and is in the middle of the pack price wise."

Okay. Maybe you don't think about your eggs that much, but I do! From the grocery stores in my area, these are the types of eggs available to me:

Regular: All eggs are free of hormones per USDA guidelines. These chickens are usually caged, grown in huge farms, and it would be rare for there to be any thought of animal rights. I avoid these eggs like the plague simply because of how the chickens are treated and the living conditions of the chickens. This is my choice, though, you don't have to agree it's important.

Cage Free: These hens can roam around barns but usually not outside. This label is NOT regulated by the USDA and means very little.

Free Range: Eggs are from hens allowed time outside, or access to time outside. There's NO regulation from the USDA regarding how much outside time.

Organic: This is the most regulated label by the USDA. The feed is controlled: it must have had minimal use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicide, and commercial fertilizers. The hens are cage-free in barns or warehouse and must have outdoor access. These are confirmed organic by an outside third party.

Natural: Hmmm....aren't all eggs natural? This isn't a regulated label and is pretty useless.

Nutrient Enhanced: The eggs are claimed to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and/or lutein. This is done by adding flax, marine, algae, or fish oils to the hens' feed. In my opinion, eat some flax yourself with your cereal and you don't need nutrient enhanced eggs.

Certified Humane: Hens can be kept inside the whole time, but they are allowed to nest, perch, and dust bathe. There are guidelines for the conditions of the hens, and a third party verifies that the farmer is meeting the guidelines. It's a program of the Humane Farm Animal Care.

Local: Eggs sourced from near your store/farmer's market.

Pastured: The feed of these hens is from the pastures. They are kept in pens and moved around the pastures in the pens. They are often used in combination with crop rotating but not always. This label isn't regulated.

So what do I buy? I buy organic eggs in the store and pastured eggs from a farmer. My pastured eggs are "beyond organic" and the chickens are cared for humanely by the farmer I buy them from. You should be aware that this choice is not because one egg is healthier than another; it's political choice for me.

Some sites where I verified my information:
Humane Society
Greener Choices
Consume This First
Associated Content


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Suzanne said...

Very interesting Renee! I love your website and can't wait to read more. I wish we could have chatted more today, but the school year is young. This is a great resource. I am a vegetarian and Jacob goes to speech therapy for a sensitive gag reflex and texture issues with food. So, we have some struggles we are working on too. Rebagrace is lucky to have such a devoted mom. See you tomorrow.