Egg cartons are emblazoned with feel good words intended to convince the consumer of the healthy and wholesome conditions the chickens are raised under. But what does that really mean to the person eating the eggs?
In short? Very little.
Consumers need to understand that the job of the package is to sell the product, and that marketing experts will sell in any way they can. Some terms to be wary about on egg packages include:
|image courtesy of: wikimedia commons|
- Cage-Free: Means exactly that. The chickens aren't in a cage. They may however be packed into a crowded barn with no access to the outdoors. In fact, cage free chickens are often subjected to the cruel practice of beak trimming to ensure they don't hurt each other in their crowded conditions.
- Free-Range: Means they have access to the outside. Access is legally defined as a door. Outside may be nothing more than a small square of dirt. Outside is not a bucolic pasture where chickens are in the sunshine breathing fresh air and pecking at bugs. In fact, chickens are not even required to have access until they are 5 weeks old, at which time, their habits are already established.
- Organic: While this term is regulated and indicates the sort of diet the chickens are fed, they still may live in overcrowded coops, with minimal access to the outside. It's just that their food is organic, and free of hormones and antibiotics.
If your eggs come from a commercial egg producer, they probably do not have the health benefits that true free-range, organic diet, cage-free, yard roaming chickens have. Eggs from truly free chickens actually have up to six times the vitamin D that a standard egg has, as the hen absorbs the sunshine vitamin which becomes part of her egg.
The only way for a consumer to truly know they are getting the healthiest and safest eggs is to buy from a local farmer or raise their own chickens.