The case of eggs in the grocery store can be nothing short of overwhelming, with warm-and-fuzzy-sounding claims like free-range, pasture-raised, and farm-fresh. But are these eggs really any better? Today we’re Getting the Skinny with Molly on what these claims really mean – and if they’re worth the extra money.
Traditional Eggs: An estimated 95% of eggs are from chickens raised in cages that house ~4-12 birds, with less than one square foot of floor space per hen. Feed is typically a combination of corn & feed from animal byproducts.
The Claims: What they Really Mean
What it means: Hens are not caged, but they are kept indoors, usually in large industrial spaces with thousands of birds. The benefits: they can move around, lay eggs in a nest, spread their wings — unlike caged hens.
One 3-year study found that cage-free hens have stronger bones and lower risk of dying, compared to caged birds.
What It Means: Cage-free + access to the outdoors. Usually in poultry house with flapped doors allowing them access to outdoors. No set standard on how much range is available to them. In many cases, free-range ends up being essentially the same as cage free.
What It Means: Egg producers who use “Organic” claims are regulated by the USDA. Organic eggs must come from chickens that are free-range, fed organic feed (no synthetic pesticides) and receive no hormones or antibiotics. They may still live in crowded, industrial spaces.
What It Means: Most of their life is spent outdoors, with access to a barn. Many eat a diet of worms, insects and grass, along with corn feed. Pasture-raised is gold standard of raising chickens in their most natural environment.
Omega-3 Fortified Eggs
What It Means: Hens are fed a diet consisting of feed like soybean meal, grains, canola oil, and/or flax seed, which are high in omega-3’s, leading to higher levels of omega-3s in the eggs. However, while the omega 3’s may be 2-3x higher than traditional eggs, it’s still far lower than omega-3 content of salmon, tuna, etc.
Egg claims that really mean nothing at all:
What it means: Nothing at all. There is no standard definition/requirement for the term “Farm Fresh”
What It Means: Again, nothing. There is no standard definition/requirement for the term “Natural”
What It Means: It’s misleading, because it's illegal to ever give hormones to poultry.