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The Difference Between Free-Range, Cage-Free, Organic, Natural, Omega-3 Eggs

Green Lifestyle  (tags: food, eco-friendly, organic, interesting, health, healthy, humans, Sustainabililty, sustainable, society, animals, animals welfare, shopping, home )

- 3281 days ago -
You want to eat well, but you're not sure about the cost. You don't like that animals are raised in torturous conditions, but...

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Elena P (549)
Tuesday June 23, 2009, 7:08 am
From the article:
"Here is a simple list of what those labels really mean and the monetary costs from cheapest to most expensive for eggs: (Thanks to the Humane Society for some info)

"Farm Fresh," "healthy," or "United Egg Producers Certified" - The cheapest option, sometimes 99 cents for a dozen. And there's a reason. These birds are fed the cheapest food and raised like egg producing machines than living beings.

They are raised in battery cages where each hen gets about a sheet of looseleaf paper's size to stand in, while being packed into crates with their beaks burned off so they don't peck each other to death from the confinement and stress. But hey, it's 99 cents a dozen.

"Vegetarian Feed," "All Natural," "Omega-3 enhanced" - A slightly better diet, no mashed up cow or poultry parts, so slightly better for your own health, but as far as cruelty, these birds are still cage raised and the price can now jump to around $2.50 a dozen.

"Cage-free" - No more confined pens! Hallelujah, but still confined indoors their entire lives. but at least they can flap their little wings and walk around,. A huge leap up in cruelty reduction and still around $2.50 - $3.00 per dozen. But their feed may be filled with ground up chicken and animal parts if the label also does not say "vegetarian diet." Remember, if it doesn't say it, it's not there.

"Free-range" - A total misnomer, and you're usually paying $4 for a dozen. The birds must have "access" to the outside by no requirement that they every actually go outside. There is an excellent article from independent producer Robert Plamondon on his site about what it really means to be "free-range" and how egg producers create situations where the birds never go out (low doors, bird territoriality) because basically says chickens need a lot of space to roam and you're looking at $10-$15 dozen eggs if they do.

What you are really looking for if free range is your thing is "pasture raised" eggs. Which means the birds have pecked at insects, grass seed and flapped around on a grassy field and even in some bushes and trees. The most humane option, the best tasting option and you guessed it, the most expensive (the $10-$15 aforesaid).

"Certified Organic" - Al vegetarian organic certified diet. Also uncaged, but that does not mean outdoors. Now we're talking $4-5 bucks a dozen.

"Certified Humane" - No cage, indoors, but much lower bird density and certified by Humane Farm Animal Care.

"Animal Welfare Approved" - A service of theAnimal Welfare Institute, the compassion cops for farm animals. No cages, no beak cutting, smiles on the farmer's faces. No chain supermarkets carry these products yet, but many independent farmers do. The web is filled with them and these egg shells can be brown or blue with dark yokes and cost around $10 a dozen or more."


Jamie L (195)
Tuesday June 23, 2009, 7:17 am
Good to know.... yet more things to look for in the maze of labels... Thanks Elena!

Elena P (549)
Tuesday June 23, 2009, 11:09 am
No kidding, eh? hehe ... I always buy organic when I buy eggs. I have not seen anywhere the :Animal Welfare Approved" yet, but I don't think I'll ever order eggs over the web, so ...

Simone Duffin (1462)
Tuesday June 23, 2009, 2:04 pm
Thank you Elena.

Elena P (549)
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 4:49 am
Thank you Simone.

Kalen C (17)
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 5:37 am
Great article. Thanks Elena.

Anonymous A (2)
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 1:37 pm
I don't understand why all farmers can't abide by all the same regulations, if they all must be free roam then all farmers should follow this the same with cage free etc. There really are too many things here and something is bound to get fouled up. I am vegetarian and signed numerous petitions to end battery cages. Thank god.

Beth G (12)
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 2:35 pm
I have some free range hens for bug control and fresh eggs. One thing people need to be aware of is how many people handle the eggs from hen to store. And how long has that carton of eggs been in cold storage and then in the store.

All the date says on the carton is the 'use by' date. Have seen eggs that have been around a month, from hen to store. Eggs have a natural coating that seals and protects them. Yet, this is washed at the egg plant, which in my view removes all or at least part of the protection.

It was decades ago when the late actor Jimmy Stewart and his wife Gloria who got us back into having a backyard flock. Know many people in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Berkeley and here in the Sierras who have back yard flocks.

And I think anyone who has the room and can do it, should. My girls are a joy to be around and they enrich my life in so many ways. ABC Nightline even did a piece recently on the surge in back yard flocks.

Bob R (1)
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 3:17 pm
The best thing to do is have your own hens. We have 7 chickens that are spoilt rotten. They have an Eglu Cube see
and a covered run as well. In the morning they are let out to charge about in our garden and get served scraps of food and pasta. They love waiting for the wild birds to visit them and drop seed from the wild bird feeders. In the UK our Free Range Eggs are sold for about 1.50 and they really are Free to range. We have an issue with caged birds but they are gradually being outlawed by the E.U. The downside is that the non free range birds may have their space reduced, the Green parties are fighting this. The welfare of Chickens in the U.K. is not perfect but compared to the U.S. they have a much better life. Two T.V. chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whiitinhstale recently raised the profile of chicken welfare on nationl TV (Channel 4) and since then there has been an explosion of people owning Eglu homes and chickens being treated like valued animals. We love our chickens dearly and they give us 6 eggs a day which we use and sell to our very gratefull neighbours.
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Past Member (0)
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 4:15 pm
What I don't get is the fact that people who don't eat eggs. Are the ones going off about people caging chickens. Now, it's admirable that people want chickens to roam free. But speaking as someone who's bred and owned chickens for the better part of my life. This isn't possible. You have to pen them up at night. And if you have boxes (egg boxes) usually they'll return to them and lay eggs. But the fact is chickens will eat everything. You have to be very careful, I had one that got in to a shed and ate the hooks out of a tackle box. I had another that ate cigarette butts. Chickens also have a pecking order. Anyone who's owned chickens knows what this is. This is where if you have an all white flock and one of them has say... A black spot on the side of it's face. The others will come and peck at this spot to the point you have to separate that chicken or the others will kill it by pecking that spot to the point they peck it's brains out. Chickens are also very dirty. You have to clean their roost at least every other day depending on how many chickens you own. (I had about 100.) Also you get problems with local wildlife. Raccoons, foxes, stray dogs, stray cats (that usually can't take a grown hen but they can mangle one if the cat is big enough although, I never had problems with cats. Probably because I owned 4 that roamed the property at the time.), and neighbors. Yes, neighbors. They will go on and on about your rooster crowing. And if you don't have a rooster the hens don't produce eggs. But then you have to go to court over the rooster and then you have to try to keep predators out, and keep your hens in and a fence doesn't always work for a hungry fox. They'll dig, they'll find a way around it. Dogs too. Cats can jump fences.

But the whole thing is that for a company. (I wasn't a company and I didn't want to be I had hens because I just loved them.) But for a company to do the same for chickens you're talking about 50,000 or more birds. They'd need a lot of land and companies don't try humane ways of keeping out predators. They'll hire someone with guns to shoot on sight. This means foxes, coyotes, stray dogs, and even cats. Companies don't care about the hens they care about the money. So, if they can stamp, "Farm raised" and "Free-Range" or "Organic" on their boxes and mark up the price, then they will. It's because most of us don't research the companies. We just buy because we trust them not to lie to us. Companies and businesses lie. That's what they hire people to do. They tell their PR department the answers to questions and the PR people parrot them out.

*shakes head* And a lot of people won't believe me when I say that the "organic" eggs you might be eating might have come from penned in chickens. Chickens that have been only in small boxes all their lives. Because I worked in an egg plant. This is where eggs come to get sorted, put in to boxes, and shipped to stores. They give us the boxes they want us to put eggs in to. The eggs come from all over. We don't know where they came from. Egg packers buy eggs and these eggs sometimes sit in storage for a while. The Use By date doesn't really mean anything. Sometimes we have to candle eggs looking for double yolks (these get sold to bakeries) and we sometimes find smaller then average eggs, and once I even found a duck egg in with a shipment.

Sadly enough a lot of the things that are marked as organic aren't. It's just so people will buy them. I worked in a plant that made vegetarian burger patties. Guess what the secret ingredient to make those patties taste just a little like beef is? Beef powder. Doubt it, say it's false, and don't believe, but most companies want to make an extra dollar. If their food was completely tasteless and didn't taste like chicken, beef, or whatever then no one would buy it after buying one box. *shakes head* But the cold hard truth is as long as people keep buying things because they believe they're helping the environment, then companies will keep putting on labels that help everyone feel good about themselves while pocketing all that extra cash by selling you the same things that everyone else may be buying for cheaper.

. (0)
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 9:31 pm
Thanks, Elena. This was very informative.

Tommy S (12)
Thursday June 25, 2009, 1:28 am
In a world of over population and land is running out. We should give more land to chickens? Are they really happy running around and then getting their head cut off. We have children staving I would be more worried about getting them eggs to eat then how the eggs are grown. T-Hawkblood

Tommy S (12)
Thursday June 25, 2009, 1:31 am
I am in Hawaii and we have lots of wild chickens and males running around day and night screaming making noise all different times every night. If I was a killer I would just shooot them all. Then give them to the local people to eat. I am not so I have to listen to them every night .
T Hawksblood

Elena P (549)
Thursday June 25, 2009, 4:39 am
Sorry you see it that way Tommy. It is not the animals fault that we, humans, are overpopulating, and then not able to feed this overpopulation properly. Mother Earth is for all, not only humans.

Angel Flinn (304)
Thursday June 25, 2009, 10:27 pm
The idea of 'humanely produced' animal products is a deliberate PR ploy to make people feel better about the enslavement of animals for food. For more information, visit

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