What does Cage-Free & Free-Ranging really mean?
What do those labels on egg cartons mean? Cage-free? Pasture-raised? Organic? Read on, chicken friends!
The following terms are defined and regulated by the USDA:
"Cage-free eggs" are from uncaged hens kept inside cramped buildings with no access to the outdoors. This option isn't ideal, but it's still a better life than being kept in a cage. If your cafe-free eggs come with a "certified humane" status given by the HFAC, that means each hen was given at least 1.5 square feet of space.
"Free-range eggs" aren't as great as they sound, but are another step up in quality of life — they are from hens kept in buildings with equally limited space, but with some limited access to the outdoors (anything from a screened-in dirt or concrete pad, to an actual pasture). To be free-range and certified humane, there must be a minimum of two square feet of outdoor space per bird.
"Organic eggs" are from hens kept free of antibiotics and hormones, fed organic feed, and are most often living under the "free-range" definition. This means they won't be passing weird chemicals and high cholesterol into the eggs you're eating.
"Pasture-raised eggs" is where it's at, folks. In general, these eggs come from hens given 108 square feet of unrestricted outdoor access. That means pastures, sunshine, grass, bugs, and access to shelter.
HOWEVER — there are still big differences between "pasture-raised" eggs. This term is NOT yet regulated by the USDA, and so it means nothing if it does not also come with a badge from the Certified Humane organization @certifiedhumaneofficial. Look for the "Certified Humane" shield on your "Pastured" egg cartons to make sure the space requirements for pasture-raising are being met.
You can find AMAZING pasture-raised eggs from @vitalfarms at your local Target or Whole Foods. Just look for the cartons with the super fun BLACK lids with chalkboard-style artwork.
Wondering about Kirkland brand eggs? What about Whole Food's 365 brand? Read more about these brands (and others) here: