What do egg labels mean?

Do you wonder what all the different labels on eggs mean? Here's a quick and easy breakdown:

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. 

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 who are allowed time outside, or have 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. 

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.

And, if you're curious why eggs in America are refrigerated, NPR's The Salt has the answer.


sophie said...

FABULOUS post! All things I just been wondering about having just moved back to the US. Thanks for the Salt link.

Just a Mom said...

Agreed, Sophie! :)