Gone are the days of just buying a dozen eggs. Now when you enter the grocery store the egg buying options are endless...and the variety of cartons and package styles is confusing. Here is the lowdown on the most common labeling terminology:
Organic eggs are from hens that only eat feed certified organic-without most synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Hens must be cage-free and free to roam. The use of antibiotics and growth hormones is not allowed. It’s important to note, that all eggs, organic or not, are hormone free.
“Pasture-raised” or “pastured” means the animal spent some time outdoors, feeding on grass, insects, and worms. Smaller farms and family-owned farms usually do pasture-raised eggs, however, there is also still no government regulation for this label considering how long those periods are.
The birds are not raised in cages, but are still subject to industrial farming techniques. The label gives no indication of any other living conditions.
Produced conventionally and industrially, but are exposed to outdoors for some part of their day. The time period is not regulated or monitored by the government and can be as little as one minute per day.
This is used to more accurately describe the source of eggs laid by hens that can not roam freely but are confined to a barn instead of a more restrictive cage.
Grass-fed means the chicken's primary source of food is grass or forage, not grain. There are no government standards for this label.
Omega 3 eggs:
Generally these hens are given omega-3 food sources (e.g. flaxseed) in their diet in order to increase the omega-3 content in the egg. They are still subject to industrial farming techniques.
No added antibiotics:
Hens were not given antibiotics in their feed or water.
This label appears on some packages as a marketing tool since no lying hens are given hormones.
The hens were fed a vegetarian diet which is controversial since chickens are not naturally vegetarian. They normally eat an omnivore diet which is a mix of produce, grains, worms, snails, slugs, and insects.
Want more info including label icons you might see on egg cartons? Visit www.aeb.org/retail/defining-egg-types-labels
to download a fact sheet.