Cage Free, Free, Range, Pasture Raised Eggs – Know Which to Choose
There are so many options available in the egg case at your local grocery store, it can be confusing to know which eggs are the best and what the differences are between cage-free eggs, free-range eggs, organic eggs, and conventional eggs.
Did you know that Americans eat on average 279 eggs per person per year according to the American Egg Board? I had no idea! That’s over 23 dozen eggs per person.
My family chooses cage-free eggs and I’ve recently been purchasing free-range eggs now that I know the difference between the treatment of the hens that lay the eggs. There is a movement among retailers and restaurants to serve only cage-free eggs because of the more humane treatment of the hen in the production process. In fact, the big grocery players aim to be 100% cage-free by 2025.
Understanding Egg Labeling
The egg cooler at the grocery store offers so many types of eggs, and it can be confusing to the average shopper.
You’ll see labels such as organic, cage-free, free-range, pasture-raised, etc. You must be a knowledgeable shopper if you want to buy the highest quality, most humanely produced eggs available.
Here’s what you need to know to decode egg labeling at the grocery store:
Pasture-Raised: This term is often interchangeable with free-range as the hens are given plenty of pasture to roam free, forage for food and treated humanely. Pasture-raised hens have the most room to roam outdoors within about 180 sq. ft.
Free Range: Free-range means the hens are cage-free plus they have access to the outdoors. In addition to eating grains, these hens may forage for wild plants and insects within a 2 square feet space. However, hens are not guaranteed grass or pasture to graze on once outside.
Cage-Free: A cage-free hen is allowed to roam freely inside a coup, room or open area that includes nest space and perches. However, cage-free hens are only given 1.5 square feet of space per hen (not enough to spread their wings) and are placed inside a generally overcrowded barn. Cage-free does not mean the hens are given outdoor access, but they are able to nest and perch and roam within their small space.
Organic: The USDA regulates the term organic. Organic eggs must come from hens that are free-range (cage-free plus access to the outdoors). In addition, they must be fed an organic feed that does not contain synthetic pesticides, and the hens cannot receive hormones or antibiotics.
Conventionally-Raised (Caged): Packaging that does not say how the hens were raised means you’re probably buying eggs from caged hens. These hens spend their entire lives indoors inside small, crowded cages. The cages do not allow ample room for a hen to even spread its wings, perch or lay its egg in a proper nest, which means a traumatic and stressful life for most hens. Unfortunately, 95 percent of eggs in the U.S. come from chickens raised in such cages. The typical cage size is approximately 67 square inches (about the size of a laptop computer).
Egg Colors and Yolk Colors
You may be familiar with the traditional white and brown eggs, but did you know that some hens also lay blue eggs? It’s true and you can find them at your local Safeway!
The color of the egg has nothing to do with the egg’s nutritional value, quality or flavor. Hens with white feathers and white ear lobes lay white eggs, hens with red feathers and red ear lobes lay brown eggs.
What about the blue eggs? Happy Egg Heritage Breed Eggs are laid by Speckled Legbar breed hens (which lay light blue eggs) and the Copper Maran breed (which lay the speckled brown eggs). Inside each Heritage Breed Egg carton, you’ll find an assortment of both light blue eggs, as well as the deep chocolate brown eggs. The blue and speckled brown eggs have the brightest and most orange yolks you’ve ever seen.
What determines the color of the yolk?
The yolk color is determined by the hen’s feed. Most free-range and pasture-raised hens are allowed to forage for food and snack on bugs in addition to being fed a proprietary feed mixture designed for the health of the bird and the egg. This is why the yolks are a deeper orange and amber color.
Safeway has a large selection of cage-free eggs, free-range, pasture-raised eggs, and organic eggs in addition to their conventional eggs. While conventional eggs are always the cheapest, they come from the least humanely raised hens. Just something to keep in mind as you spend your dollars on eggs.
Check out a couple of great recipes using eggs on sale at Safeway this week here:
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Safeway to introduce you to all the egg options available at your local Safeway and to raise awareness of how the eggs come to market.
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