When did it get so confusing to buy eggs? The cartons are covered with terms like cage free, organic, natural… plus a wide range of prices to make a decision even trickier.
So, what does all this mean? These labels convey how the laying hens were raised, cared for and fed, which can help you make ethical shopping choices and choose a flavorful egg.
Here’s what the different labels mean:
Hens live in an enclosure full-time with space for nesting and perching and free to move about during the laying cycle. The space can be crowded, and the hens do not have access to the outdoors.
Hens live cage-free and have continuous access to the outdoors. There are no standards for the type of outdoor space, or the amount of time spent outside.
Hens have access to the outdoors, eating a natural diet of bugs and plants in addition to feed, and have access to an enclosure. Look for an additional humane certification to ensure the farm has been verified by a third party; the USDA does not regulate how this term is used.
Hen’s feed is certified organic.
The hens are raised according to animal-welfare standards and third-party verification. Without cage-free, free-range or pasture-raise certifications, the hens may be living in slightly larger cages.
US federal law mandates that hens be raised without supplemental hormones, so eggs are hormone-free whether or not it says so on the label.
Natural means minimally processed with no artificial ingredients. While whole eggs by definition are natural, you may want to look for this on liquid egg products.
Enriched with Omega-3’s
Hands are fed a diet enhanced with omega-3 fatty acids
Another question I get all the time is, “do they all taste the same?” All I can say is that just like when you prepare food, if you cook it with love, it tastes better than when you cook when you’re angry. Happier hens make tastier eggs!
A firm, deep orange yolk is an indication of a diet high in carotenoids (a natural plant pigment) from grazing, while a light yellow yolk suggests the hen was fed commercial food with wheat or barley.
You’ve probably also seen the variety of eggshell colors, especially if you got eggs from a friend with chickens; they’re always varying shades of blue, grey and brown. But color doesn’t affect the taste – it only tells you the type of breed.
And lastly, size matters. Stores carry medium to jumbo sizes. The differences are slight but might factor in when it comes to recipes. Large is the standard for baking.
I hope this clarifies some of the mystery.
Here is my favorite quote by Oscar Wilde:
~ “An egg is always an adventure; the next one may be different.”