Not too long ago, I found myself at the grocer standing in front of a large selection of eggs at various prices marked: “cage-free”, free range”, “free run”, “grain fed”, “Omega Rich Eggs”. Confusing, right? Like me, you might have wondered what is the difference between a 7.00 dozen of eggs and 2.00 dozen of eggs?
Hopefully, I can help you clear some of that up with this post.
I recently watched the movie/documentary “The Natural History of the Chicken”, and found it quite interesting. There was a certain part of the movie where they show just how close the quarters can be for many chickens. It was pretty appalling and when I did the research to see how Canadian hens are treated – I quickly discovered that Canada is no different. In fact, there are some pretty horrible statistics about Canada’s laying hens confined in what are called battery cages.
So how do you tell which eggs are the most humanely raised? I thought I would give you a brief overview on the labels and what they really mean as well as those ‘certifications’ you see.
“Farm Fresh” – You know, those generic styrofoam containers with the farm fresh white eggs or farm fresh large brown eggs. These hens are likely confined, medicated and likely eating a poor GMO feed.
“Cage-Free” – While not in confined cages, they are NOT outdoors and likely still too crowded. The feed and/or medications used are unknown.
“Free-Range” – To me, this means essentially the same as cage-free. Basically, the hens are able to ‘free-range’ in an open space, but still NOT outdoors. And again, how much room are they really being given to ‘range’.
“Grain Fed” – All this is telling is you that the hens were fed grains. The grains might be from GMO sources and/or include pesticides and chemicals. You might often find it combined with “Free Range, Grain Fed”.
“Omega” – Chickens are fed extra flax seed or other omega-3 rich foods (including fish) to make their eggs “healthier.” Likely confined to cages as well, and no guarantees the feed is free from GMO sources unless otherwise specified.
“Organic” – This usually means that they are given feed without growth hormones or antibiotics.
“Pastured” – Chickens are allowed to roam free, eating plants and insects -their natural food. Whenever you see “organic, pasture fed” think jackpot (or cha-ching – these are generally the most expensive eggs).
You can also find information on the certification labelling here.
I hope this helps you navigate the egg aisle a little bit easier. There seems to be a real trend these days with people sourcing our their eggs from local farmers. Its usually cheaper, your supporting local farmers, the eggs are more wholesome and you get to see the animals that are actually supplying you the delicious eggs.
After having sourced our eggs this way for the last while, we are pretty excited that we will soon be able to source our eggs from our own backyard!
Watching the chickens has become one of our favourite past-times these days. 🙂