Information on Egg Labeling in the Supermarket, What is Worth Your Money?
Egg buying has become very confusing, with a large mix of certifications, terms and phrasing on packages- many buyers are left wondering, when and what is worth the extra bucks? Check out my guide below of what the terms mean (or don't mean) and which terms are worth the extra bucks in my humble opinion(denoted by this ***). I also really like this NPR article:
I would pay more for this, it is a very specific term that guarantees the hens are not caged, fed an organic diet, receive no antibiotics or GMO foods.
This term really means nothing, it is not a regulated term so ANY producer can put this term on their label.
Again this is not regulated so any producer can put this on it’s label.
Omega 3 ***
This is also NOT regulated. However it is a great way to get some more omega-3 fatty acids. The hens are fed fish oil or flax oil to increase the omega-3s in the eggs laid.
Another unregulated term, however it means just what it says. The hens laying the eggs don’t live in cages, but this doesn’t mean they are in a “good situation”, or even outside.
So what is the difference? These hens can move around, perch and lay their eggs in a nest, and depending on how many other hens are around, they may be able to spread their wings.
Pasture Raised ***
I would also pay more for this term. Most of these hens spend the balance of their lives outdoors with a good amount of space and access to indoors. They can eat worms and insects along with vegetarian feed. Some producers include amount of square feet per hen. This is a level of transparency I believe in.
This term should not warrant extra dollars from your pocket because it is illegal to give hormones to egg laying hens in the US.
United Egg Producer Certified
Not worth your money or purchasing power. According to the Humane Society. “This voluntary egg industry program permits cruel and inhumane caging and treatment. Hens are confined in barren, wire cages so small the birds can barely move. The guidelines recommend cage space less than the size of a piece of paper—just 67 square inches—for each bird.”
This term means the hens are not in a cage and have access to the outdoors. The extra outdoor space may be a screened-in area on cement or dirt or grass. Even though it may say this, most free-range birds in commercial egg facilities never do go outside. The USDA does not certify this term, so be careful this may not mean your eggs were laid by a hen that ever saw the light of day.
The vegetarian diet contains no animal by-products. Chicken will scavenge in a natural environment eating bugs and vegetarian food. So a vegetarian diet may not actually be best for the hens, but you can know they are not eating other animal by-products. Most hens are fed a vegetarian diet, so I wouldn’t pay more for this.
Many people are starting to raise their own hens and source eggs from their own backyard. Before deciding to do this, check out your local city ordinances to see if your area will allow you to have hens based on city zoning. Even if you don't live in super rural areas, there is often at least 1 or 2 sources of farm fresh, truly pasture raised eggs around.
I also recommend testing other types of eggs: Emu, Goose, Ostrich, Turkey, Quail and DUCK!
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
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