Have You Tried to Decipher Egg Labels Lately?

Have you ever wondered which eggs your should buy in the grocery?  I have! 

On those rare occasions that we have been out of eggs (like after one of the kids left the chicken wagon open and we lost most of the laying hens to a predator last summer… ) I began looking a little closer at the labels. 

After all, if I had to BUY eggs, I wanted to buy eggs that met my own production standards.

There were so many different labels!  I wasn’t sure exactly what each of them meant.  While the wording seemed pretty obvious, I wanted to verify their legitimacy.

What I discovered is that labels are often designed to convince a buyer that product X is better, safer, healthier or has better taste than product Y.  Many manufacturers and producers are exceptionally creative at describing their products to convince us to buy. 

I have come to the conclusion that labeling is simply another form of propaganda used to push products off the shelf.  Some of those labels are simply meeting basic USDA standards! Meeting only minimum standard requirements!  So, while this is not illegal, it may not be entirely accurate. 

Here’s what I found out on the United States Department of Agriculture / Agriculture Marketing Service (USDA/AMS) website:

NATURAL:  “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.” 

This seems a no brainer, we are buying raw eggs, what could possibly have been added to them?

VEGETARIAN FED: This simply means that no animal byproducts were fed to the chickens.  The thing is, chickens are NOT vegetarians, they are omnivores.  They eat just about any bug or worm they can find.  Chickens also need methionine, an essential amino acid, which they get from consuming insects.  Vegetarian chickens have to be supplemented with synthetic methionine!

CAGE FREE:  All this one means is that the hens were housed in a building, room, or enclosure with unlimited access to food and freedom to roam.  It does not mean that they had access to the outdoors or that they were not packed in with hundreds of other birds.

FREE RANGE:  This is a small step up from cage free, in addition to meeting the cage free requirements, they have “continuous access” to the outdoors.  There is no criteria for the size of the outdoor area or the number of birds sharing the outdoor area.

ORGANIC:  These chickens must meet the criteria for free range in addition to being feed an organic feed and receive no hormones or antibiotics throughout their lifecycle.  Most of these chickens still live in crowded, industrial housing.

ANTIBIOTIC FREE:  According to the USDA, antibiotic use is not allowed during the laying cycle, which makes this a somewhat meaningless claim, although it does leave it open for antibiotics to be administered before the laying cycle begins.

LOCALLY PRODUCED:  Eggs must originate less than 400 miles from the PROCESSING facility!  Or, from the state within which they originated and were processed in.  400 miles does not seem very local to me.

HAPPY HENS:  The USDA/AMS itself says “The term is misleading and subjective.”  I don’t think I even need to comment here!

The best place to buy eggs produced humanely is from your local farmer, where you can verify claims yourself!  You can find our fresh eggs for sale here on our website.  

Our hens are truly "Happy Hens."  They are currently out with the cows, they like the use the cows for cover when arial predators are passing overhead.  As soon as the grass is in and the cows begin rotating, the chickens will follow along in their "chicken wagon."