It’s finally Spring!! And, I cannot believe tomorrow is April 1st. Phew! With that said, Easter is just right around the corner. I have heard lately many people commenting on the confusion of massive variety of eggs at Whole Foods (or other grocery stores). It really is ridiculous, and hard to understand!
Anyway, with Easter (and Easter eggs!) right around the corner, I thought now would be a good time to give a mini tutorial on what the wording on the egg cartons mean. Hopefully it will help you make an educated, and less confusing, purchase the next time you go to buy eggs at the grocery store…
Cage-free: It just means that the chickens are not raised in small cages, although it doesn’t mean the hens have access to the outdoors. They still are most likely raised in tight conditions, in a barn-like setting, with clipped beaks and wings, and very little exposure to sunlight. And unless it states otherwise, it certainly doesn’t mean these chickens are free of antibiotics, hormones, vaccines and feed that may include animal by products or GMO-crops. It’s a really deceiving word, isn’t it?
Free-range: It means that the chickens have some exposure to the outdoors for a portion of their life, but there are no absolute standards on time or duration. According to SF Gate, “It does not mean that the poultry must be allowed access to pastures or grassy yards, nor does it ensure a certain amount of time outdoors or the size of the area for a given number of birds.” Again, same thing here regarding the antibiotics, hormones, vaccines and feed. Unless it says “no antibiotics”, you have to assume it’s in there.
Omega-3 Enriched eggs: This just means that the feed given to the chickens are enriched with an omega-3 diet, usually in the form of flaxseeds. There chickens are not free of hormones and antibiotics either.
Organic Vegetarian-fed: It means that the chickens are not fed any meat or fish (since when do chickens eat cows or salmon?), organic vegetarian-based diet. While this might sound “healthier”, they are actually not meant to be a vegetarian-fed animal. They actually do best eating bugs and worms, but that’s where the next last one comes in. Oh, and again, I know I’m a broken record, but, you guessed it, these are likely also not free of hormones and antibiotics.
Certified Organic Eggs: The feed that is given to these chickens is organic, and the chickens are not given any antibiotics or hormones. These chickens most likely have some (not all) exposure to sunlight. Ah, finally, it’s getting better.
But, the clear winner goes to…
Pasture-raised eggs: These chickens are free to roam on open grassland, eat an organic diet, enjoy bugs and worms, see daylight, and are not given any hormones or antibiotics. While this is clearly the most humane way to raise the hens, they also provide us with eggs that have darker/richer yolks that taste better and have a higher nutritional value.
A 2007 study by Mother Earth News showed that pastured eggs have, in comparison to those confined to a cage:
- 66% more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
While they are more expensive (find a friend with chickens!) they are worth it! If you can’t always get the pasture, then at least try to go organic to ensure that they are free of hormones and antibiotics. Costco carries Organic eggs now, too!
I’ve got some good recipes to share with you all the next few upcoming weeks so be sure to check back soon! In the meantime, here are a few good old favorite recipes for your eggs:
Happy egg hunting!!