by Associate Clinician Victoria Fisher
Cage free, free range, organic…what do they all mean? How do I know what eggs are best? Do I really need to spend more money on eggs? All those labels can get confusing, and it can be difficult to know what to buy for your family. But not all eggs are created equal. Here’s a guide to buying the best eggs.
Commercial eggs – birds are caged (up to 11 chickens per cage); 23% of farms with caged hens test positive for salmonella; chicks are often debeaked; hens are starved to force molting, which forces hens to lay eggs longer; male chicks are inhumanely destroyed because they are of no use for egg production; feed often contains antibiotics, animal byproducts, and GMOs; hens never get outdoor exposure; hens are typically slaughtered at 2 years old
Cage free – hens are not in cages, and that is usually the only difference from commercial hens/eggs
Free range – according to USDA, hens are allowed access to outdoors, but there is no specification as to the duration of outdoor exposure or conditions; many hens still don’t even get outdoors; debeaking is generally not practiced; hens can still be given conventional feed
Organic – hens are not caged and often have outdoor exposure (still not mandated on length of exposure or conditions); hens can still have their beaks trimmed; hens are given organic, non-GMO feed that cannot contain animal byproducts, antibiotics, or growth hormones; farmers cannot induce molting; male chicks are still destroyed using lethal gas
Pasture-raised – hens are outdoors most often, allowing them to nest, peck, and hunt; hens’ pasture site is moved daily; diet is often supplemented with organic feed; there is no debeaking/beak trimming; eggs are nutritionally superior to other eggs – they have less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more vitamins A and E, beta carotene, and Omega 3 fats
Soy-free, Pasture-raised – same as pasture-raised, but supplemental feed is organic, non-GMO, and soy-free, which is ideal
Remember, whatever the chickens eat, we eat it too! Toxic residue from commercial and/or soy-based feed passes into the eggs, which we then consume. Soy-free, pasture-raised eggs are by far the best choice for you and your family. You can also follow all of these guidelines when choosing what kind of chicken or turkey to eat!
And if you’re feeling adventurous, or have access to them, try these non-chicken eggs: quail, duck, goose, or even turkey!