Do you feel like you need a decoder ring to understand all of the labels on egg cartons?
Let us help you out!
Pasture-Raised: Chickens happily running around on actual grass, or in a movable enclosure to keep them safe from coyotes, raccoons, and hawks. (Hey, we aren't the only ones who think chicken tastes good.) In this system, they are eating bugs and grass, and can be given chicken feed as well. These happy chickens make some amazing eggs!
Cage-Free: Hmm, this sounds good, but what does it really mean? Well, in large commercial egg houses, hens were kept in dark cages with about as much space to hang out as a piece of copier paper. Some chicken houses have moved to cage free, which means just that, no cages. Usually, they are raised indoors in giant barns with thousands of other chickens. Better, but not as great as pastured!
Organic: Eggs with this label must come from free-range, fed organic feed (no synthetic pesticides), and receive no hormones or antibiotics. They may or may not, have access to outdoors. It's just all about the food they eat.
Vegetarian-Fed Diet: Did you now that chickens are not really vegetarians? It 's true! So to get the protein they need, these ladies are fed soybean meal. So why the label? Some industrial egg houses have fed their hens ground chicken feathers an other, ahem, unsavory byproducts of their industry. Vegetarian fed means that they are only getting grains & most likely eat corn fortified with amino acids.
All Natural/Natural: There's really nothing natural about all-natural. It's really just a marketing ploy to convince you that the food is somehow "better" because it claims to be natural.
No Hormones: It is illegal to give hormones to poultry; it is the equivalent of putting a label boasting "no toxic waste" on a cereal box
No Antibiotics: Antibiotics are rarely used in egg industry, so it's like another free pass.
Free Range-Cage Free and Access to Outdoors: There is no government oversight to this term, so companies can have more or less interpret it as they see fit.
If you see none of these claims on your carton, you should probably assume the worst.
One last note: if your grandma told you that that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs, it is only because back in the day, brown eggs came from real farms. The color of the egg depends on the breed of chicken. When these big egg houses started up, they only used chickens that produced white eggs, because consumers thought they were cleaner and healthier.
Get your eggs from your Food Circle Farmer!