Eggs are Better when they’re Pasture Raised
Let’s face it, not all eggs are created equal! Do you ever find yourself dazed and confused standing in front of the dozens of eggs at the grocery store? Cage-Free, Free-Range, Natural, Omega-3, Farm Fresh, Organic, there are so many! How is anyone supposed to remember if Cage-Free is better or worse than Free-Range? Or if vegetarian-fed is even good for chickens? Let me crack it open for you!
There are very few regulations from the US government regarding what can be said on egg cartons. The only USDA regulations are on the phrase “Certified Organic”. The USDA “Certified Organic” eggs must be from hens whose feed is organic, vegetarian and free of pesticides and antibiotics, and they must not be caged and must have access to the outdoors. These are all good things with the exception of being vegetarian-fed. Hens in their natural outdoor environment eat bugs, which technically makes them omnivores. Unfortunately, “Certified Organic” doesn’t provide guidelines for how the hens must be treated and how much outdoor access they receive (both space and time).
There are many third-party organizations like Humane Farm Animal Care, Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved, and American Humane Certified, to name a few, that are helping to provide some frameworks for further certification. Egg labels may claim participation in any number of these programs which help to further define and certify the quality of the life of the hens and the eggs that you buy. These certifications will help you identify which eggs are guaranteed to have received specific treatment, mainly quality outdoor time and space.
For a quick summary, eggs from certified Pasture Raised hens receive the best treatment and produce the highest quality and most nutritious eggs. These hens receive the most access to the outdoors with the largest minimum space requirement per hen. Antiobiotics, cages, and animal by-products are prohibited.
Another great way to ensure the quality of your eggs and the hens that lay them is to shop at your local farmer’s market and get to know the farmer who sells the eggs! Otherwise, the key when shopping for eggs is to look for a third-party certification (like Certified Humane). Any term that doesn’t come with a certification, is not regulated and can be very deceiving!
Egg Phrases Decoded:
- Certified Pasture Raised: Cages are prohibited, hens are free to walk around and engage in other natural chicken behaviors, beak-cutting prohibited, starvation-based forced molting prohibited, must be outdoors year-round with mobile or fixed housing for the hens to go inside for shelter, minimum 108 square feet per bird, all animal by-products and antibiotics are prohibited
- Certified Free-Range: Cages are prohibited, free to walk and engage in other natural chicken behaviors, beak-cutting prohibited, starvation-based forced molting prohibited, must be outdoors at least 6 hours per day, minimum 2 square feet per bird, all animal by-products and antibiotics are prohibited
- USDA Certified Organic: The hens are uncaged, free to walk and engage in other natural chicken behaviors, beak-cutting prohibited, starvation-based forced molting prohibited, must have outdoor access*, feed is organic, vegetarian and free of pesticides and antibiotics (as required by the USDA’s National Organic Program)
- Free-Range/Free-Roaming: The hens are uncaged, free to walk and engage in other natural chicken behaviors, beak-cutting prohibited, starvation-based forced molting prohibited, must have outdoor access*
- Cage-Free: The hens are uncaged, free to walk and engage in other natural chicken behaviors, beak-cutting prohibited, starvation-based forced molting prohibited, not necessarily given outdoor access*
Don’t let these terms trick you! Designations with no relevance to animal welfare and with no regulations: vegetarian-fed (chickens are omnivores!), natural, farm fresh, fertile, omega-3 enriched (usually just means feed is supplemented with flax), pasteurized
*This term is deceiving because it doesn’t guarantee what kind of access to the outside or a time requirement. It can mean something like a “pop hole”, with no full-body access to the outdoors and no minimum space requirement.
… Remember what the hens say!
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from you! Spread the Love and Share this with someone!
Want to learn more about how to read labels when shopping for Real Foods?
Transformational Nutrition Coaching could help!
Book a FREE Discovery Session with me today! I would love to share my Real Food grocery shopping and label decoding tips to help you transition to a Real Food lifestyle!
I have saved a ton of money while eating Real Foods by shopping at Thrive Market! This has been my favorite place to shop for real food pantry staples and non-toxic home and personal products for over 2 years! You can read my review of their service in a previous post. Think Costco + Whole Foods + delivered to your doorstep!
Disclaimer: The information within this blog post and video are not to be considered a substitution for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
This post contains affiliate links. Read my affiliate disclosure.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is not intended as medical advice, or to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional. Marcelle encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research, and in partnership with your doctor, licensed dietitian, or nutritionist. The information provided in this post and the entire contents of www.marcellephene.com are based upon the opinions of Marcelle Phene and are for general educational purposes, and have not been reviewed nor approved by the FDA. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.