Cage free, free range, pasture raised - so many labels for a simple chicken egg! What does it all mean?
Not all eggs are created equal. The egg farming industry has all kinds of methods in which chickens are raised and eggs are collected. All of the different names help consumers understand how that process was handled and to help determine which eggs you'd like to buy.
must be produced by hens housed in a building, room, or enclosure that allows for unlimited access to food & water & provides the freedom to roam the area during the laying cycle. Cage-free hens are not required to have access to the outdoors & do not produce more nutritional eggs.
must be produced by cage-free hens housed in a building, room, or area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and continuous access to the outdoors (at least 2 square feet per hen) during their laying cycle. The outdoor space doesn't need to have any living vegetation
must be produced by free range hens. Birds must have outdoor access for at least six hours each day, with at least 108 square feet of pasture covered mainly with living vegetation.
These labels give you an idea about how the hens were treated. This is because some industrial practices treat hens in ways that can come as a shock to some.
For example, some in the egg industry use Battery Cages to house their hens. The chickens live condensed in small cages that do not afford them a chance to walk around or stretch their wings.
The chickens live on top of each other in conditions that are not necessarily very clean or sanitary.
The chickens themselves receive minimal care, while most of the process focuses on the harvesting of eggs for a minimum investment and maximized profit.
Another example of how big egg farms put minimal attention and care into their chickens is the practice of beak cutting.
Because the chickens are caged close together and have to fight for food, the hens may peck each other. To discourage this, the hens beaks are cut at a young age to remove the sharp tips.
The industry only sees a use for the eggs, and does not pay attention to their hens - or roosters. In fact, industrial practices root out and kill the majority of roosters at a very young age.
By buying cage free, free range, or pasture raised eggs - you can enjoy the ethical benefits that come with knowing that your eggs were not produced inhumanely - that instead, your eggs were raised by processes that understand balancing our need for protein, and respect for nature.
Buying pasture raised eggs comes with a number of other benefits outside of the treatment of chickens.
There are multiple health benefits to buying and then eating pasture raised eggs. In a study conducted by the USDA, it was found that free range eggs contain a higher nutritional value than standard industrial caged eggs. They also contain less cholesterol and saturated fat.
Buying pasture raised eggs is a way to ensure ethical treatment of the chickens that lay the eggs you eat. Pasture raised eggs come from hens that not only live outside of cages, but get to forage and explore the larger environment and world that they live in. The chickens belong to owners that genuinely care about the hens' well being and treat them with respect. Most farmers that pasture raise chickens also have a rooster or two and do not purposely root out baby chicks for the grinder.
Typically, pasture raised eggs come from a local farmer, which means that if you purchase the eggs you help contribute to a smaller amount of pollution, or carbon footprint. A refrigerated truck or plane did not have to travel, using fossil fuels, to bring the eggs from far way.
By purchasing pasture raised eggs, you can also take advantage of several economic benefits. You are more than likely buying pasture raised eggs locally. This means that you can help support American small business and help create sustainable jobs for local economies.
You may also develop a relationship with your local egg dealers - ensuring a personal connection and understanding of egg production and pricing.
Overall, there are multiple benefits to buying pasture raised eggs from a local producer - whether you are enchanted by the ethical benefits, excited about healthy living, or itching to know where your eggs come from and contribute to local economies - you can make a difference in our food supply and make our future more sustainable.
Find your local egg dealers today and try out pasture raised eggs!