Unscrambling Egg Labels


Do you need an Egg-cyclopedia to know which eggs to buy? Whether you want to promote higher animal welfare practices, hopefully,  or want eggs from healthier hens, there are so many options to choose from and the terms can be confusing. Did you know some producers raise chickens in battery cages where they can't even turn around or spread their wings?! 

Buying from the farmer's market is always my first choice!  I choose the organic, pasture raised, certified humane eggs.  If you have a farmer's market available it's the best option as you are supporting your local farmers, reducing the environmental footprint, and buying fresher eggs that are more than likely from happy, healthy, humanely raised hens which provide high-quality eggs. You also can talk directly to your small-scale egg producer about the girls whose eggs you will be eating. What do they eat? Girls on grass! Free to forage!

Here's a cheat sheet so you can decipher all those labels.

  • Cage-free: Hens are free to roam indoors and engage in natural behaviors but usually don't have access to outdoors. You don't know what they are fed.
  • Free-range/free-roaming: Hens have some access to the outdoors but that can be a concrete slab. You don't know what they are fed. 
  • Pasture raised: Hens get to forage on their natural diet of grass outdoors which has been shown to be higher in vitamin A and lower in fat and cholesterol than a grain fed diet. 
  • Organic:  Hens are cage-free, have access to outdoors (but the terms aren't well defined) and are fed organic feed.
  • Hormone free:  This is a marketing gimmick as no hens are ever given added hormones!
  • Natural:  This is a marketing gimmick as all eggs are natural!

Animal welfare certification labels:

  • Animal Welfare Approved: This has the highest level of standards of any third party auditing. Birds must have continuous access to outdoor area for ranging and foraging that is covered with growing vegetation and at least 4 square feet of space per bird.
  • Certified Humane
  • American Humane Certified
  • Food Alliance Certified
  • United Egg Producers Certified: Don't be misled by this one as they allow inhumane practices such as battery cages.

Check out the infographic and choose what's important to you!  You can now make informed, egg-cellent choices!