There are a lot of buzzwords out there surrounding eggs and the hens they come from. Omega, organic, cage-free, free-range, pasture-raised, farm fresh, or just simply Grade A/AA eggs, are some of the many words used to describe a carton of eggs, but what is the real difference between them all? It’s more complicated than you might think!
As animal welfare has been increasingly higher on our agenda, it now ranks as the 3rd most important issue to American restaurant consumers (HumanSociety.com/Eggs).
The picture below captures the differences between two different quality eggs. While organic eggs are a better choice than commercial eggs, by learning through the definitions below it is clear to see that eating pasture-raised eggs and hens are far superior. Just by purely looking at the yolk between the two different quality eggs shows a significant difference. The pasture-raised egg shines a bright orange and has a firmer and plumper yolk. Take the challenge: buy a carton of pasture-rasied eggs from your local farmer and crack one open in the pan next to any other quality of egg. See the difference yourself!
- Commercial = Warehouse hens are kept in 4’x6’ cages, often with beaks cut or burnt to prevent pecking their neighbor, with up to 100,000 cages chickens never feeling sunshine and fed an unnatural diet of corn and waste. Deprived of being able to walk, groom themselves, lay eggs in nesting boxes, or even spread their wings; with 3x more likely to be contaminated with salmonella.
- Vegetarian Fed = hens fed only plants, not their natural diet of bugs, therefore not producing high-quality eggs.
- Farm Fresh = does not mean anything. Hens are not treated better, eggs are not high-quality. Just used as a buzzword for marketing.
- Omega-3 Fed = hens are fed flaxseeds, in addition to their diet.
- Organic= no antibiotics may be administered to laying hens.
- Cage-free = hens are not confined to an individual cage, but may house tens of thousands of hens indoors in unknown conditions.
- Free-range = chicken companies do not have a specific amount of time spent outside or how much area per chicken is required; not a natural diet and have unknown living conditions.
- Pasture-raised = hens roam freely outdoors in pasture where they can exercise and forage in the sun for their natural diet-seeds, plants, insects, and worms. This varied diet enhances the quality of eggs and overall health of the hens, show with their deep orange and fluffy yolk. These hens have: more antioxidants, folate, vitamin B12, 3x vitamin A, 7x beta-carotene, 2-3x vitamin E, 6-10x omega-3 fats, 6x vitamin D, and 98% less likely to carry salmonella (HumanSociety.com/Eggs)!
Tip: The best eggs to get are both certified organic and pasture-raised. Although organic certification is cost-prohibitive for many small farmers, you can buy from a local farmer and make sure the chickens are raised according to organic, free-range standards, allowing the flock to forage freely and not fed antibiotics, corn, and soy. Chickens eat bugs; therefore, they are not vegetarians! Look out for this buzzword on egg cartons as well.