Egg Carton Terminology
Do you ever wonder if you’re actually doing a good thing by buying (or even considering buying) the cage-free, organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, humane, brown eggs or if you’re just wasting your money? Watch one PETA video or search YouTube for factory farming and you will find dozens of videos showing the absolute unimaginable cruelty to which some of the birds that lay eggs are subjected. In all honesty, many of the claims made on egg cartons are just marketing, and the claims have little credibility. To help you decipher what is and is not important on the carton, here are some definitions from the USDA.
Cage-free: Birds may roam freely in a room or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and water during their production cycles.
Free range: Birds have access to shelter indoors with unlimited access to food, water and the outdoors during their production cycles. The outdoor area may be fenced or covered with netting.
Grade: Grade A eggs have thick whites, which do not spread easily, making them ideal for frying. Grade B eggs usually have thinner whites, good for cakes and omelets. Grades are based on those and other qualities such as defects.
Grass-fed: Grass –fed animals receive the majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their lives. The grass-fed label does not limit the use of antibiotics or pesticides.
Humane: Multiple third-party labeling programs verify that animals were treated humanely, but the verification can vary widely.
Natural: All eggs are natural. This has no bearing on farm practices.
Organic: Birds are not caged, have access to the outdoors, and their feed is produced without conventional pesticides or fertilizers.
Pasture-raised: there is no USDA definition.
No added hormones, or raised without hormones: Federal regulations have never permitted hormones or steroids in poultry.
Shell color: it was once thought that brown eggs are better than white. This is a myth. Shell color is based on the breed.
Yolk color: yolks range in color from pale yellow to deep orange depending upon the chickens’ food.
Next time you buy eggs, I encourage you to read the label and see if you can find any of these terms. Consider buying local eggs or visit a farmers market. You can often taste a difference in the quality between a fresh egg and one that has been sitting on a shelf in a supermarket for weeks!