Understanding the various types of eggs in the market is like unscrambling the Da Vinci code. Maybe not just like it but close. The number of labels on an egg seems to be growing at an exponential rate.
Eggs can be cage free, free range, pasture-raised, natural, organic, vegetarian fed, omega 3 enriched, hormone free, antibiotic free, etc, etc, etc. Many eggs have many labels, which gets even more confusing.
Let’s unscramble the code. First, everyone should know these labels cost farmers money. So the more labels on a carton the more money it will cost. Are all of these labels truly necessary?
Natural – is a marketing term. All eggs are natural. Side note: that applies to other foods as well. Consider natural eggs to be nothing different then any other egg.
Vegetarian Fed – is one of my favorite labels because it sounds great but it’s not. A buyer thinks oh great, these hens must be getting all the nutrients they need from vegetables and are being raised in a great, gentle environment if they are vegetarian fed. Wrong. Vegetarian fed typically means the hens are being fed soy, wheat, and corn. Their feed also includes synthetic vitamins and supplements because the grains and legumes do not give them enough. Most laying hens are fed a vegetarian diet even if the eggs are not labeled as so. On top of that, chickens are not vegetarians. They eat bugs and grubs. Stay away from the over priced vegetarian-fed egg labels.
Cage Free – means that the chickens are not confined to living in an 18 by 20-inch battery cage with up to 11 other hens such as conventional eggs. However, their living conditions are not much better. They are chickens that are able to roam in the barn or sit in their cage. Even if they roam, they might not be going far because the barn is over populated with chickens It makes it difficult for chickens to expand their wings, yet alone walk someplace. Cage-free chickens are not required to have outside access. Most of them do not even see the light of day.
Hormone Free – is a waste of a label because all chicken eggs are hormone free by law. It’s another marketing tactic.
Antibiotic Free – is only for chickens that have not been given antibiotics during their growing period from pellets or while they are laying hens. All certified organic eggs are antibiotic free. Except for their first day of life or while the chick is still unhatched. So, yes, your “organic” and “antibiotic-free” egg may have actually come from a hen that was given antibiotics while it was a tiny chick inside an egg or just hatched.
Omega-3 – are eggs that are laid by hens which are fed flax seeds. The flax seeds give the eggs additional omega-3‘s that most eggs do not have. This makes good sense, especially since the majority of the omega-3 in eggs are DHA (not ALA). Research even shows that one of these eggs a day could lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
This leaves us with only three more labels listed above and countless labels we won’t bother addressing. Organic and Pasture Raised.
Free Range – is very similar to cage-free. The main difference is that free range hens have outdoor access, such as chicken door (like a doggy door but for chickens). However, not all of the hens actually go outside.
Organic – these eggs come from hens raised very similarly to free range but they are fed an organic based diet. Which means their chicken feed is grown with only the couple of hundred allowed substances through an organic certification not the thousands of substances allowed on congenitally grown foods. These hens are also granted outdoor access but there is not a specific amount of time required for them to be outside.
Pasture Raised – these are the happy chickens you dream of (at least I do). These chickens get to bathe in the sun, take dirt baths, spreads it wings, eat some bugs and live a happy chicken life. These chickens produce healthier eggs and in my opinion, better-tasting eggs. These are the types of eggs I mainly talked about in Eggs are High in Cholesterol. They have more vitamins, minerals, nutrients and healthy fats then most other eggs. You can buy these eggs at health food stores or at a much better price from a local farmer. Either way, these are the eggs to eat!
I personally do not see a point in spending $8/dozen for the same eggs I can get from a local farmer for $5/dozen. That is only one reason to buy from a local farmer. There are many more reasons to buy eggs from a local farmer as opposed to a store. Follow along to get more into reasons to buy from a local farmer while we explore farms vs stores egg later this month.
As always, if you have a comment, questions, suggestion or just want to chat about local food, shoot me a message. I’d love to hear about it.