Which Eggs to Buy

Are you confused when standing before  all the different choices of eggs at the grocery store?  Which ones are the best to buy? What do all of the labels actually mean? If so, here’s the lowdown:

Cage Free: While yes, these birds aren’t in cages, they might be kept shoulder-to-shoulder in a barn. A cage-free label does not mean the hens ever go outside.

Free Range: Sometimes this means the same as cage-free. Certified Humane Free Range standards says free-range hens have access to two square feet of outdoor space, but do not measure how much time they actually spend outside.

Pasture Raised: This isn’t officially defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but it usually means that the hens have access to more outdoor space than if they were simply “free range” or “cage free.” The birds are raised largely outdoors and may forage for their food.

Natural: There’s most likely nothing very “natural” about these eggs.

Fresh: Same as natural. The package will continue to say this long after the eggs are fresh.

No Pesticides: Pesticides weren’t used in farming the chicken feed. This does not reflect how the chickens are kept or treated.

No Antibiotics: This is actually one to pay attention to because it is important to human health. This term means that farmers used no antibiotics in the hens’ feed/water during growing periods or while they layed the eggs. In general, an extra dollar is rarely better spent than for antibiotic-free animal products.

If you have a farmer nearby or a friend who raises chickens, this is of course the best source. If you are purchasing from the store, your best bet is to choose organic. Organic eggs are required to come from chickens that are raised cage-free, fed an organic diet grown without pesticides, managed without antibiotics and hormones, and have seasonal access to the outdoors. But please beware, not all organic egg producers agree on the definition of “outdoor access.” If you are curious about if those eggs are truly organic, refer to Mr. Google and check out the company’s reputation and standards.