When I started to be a more conscious consumer a couple of years ago, I started by making small changes in my diet, lifestyle and the things I did. One of the very first things I did was start small in my grocery shopping. I started with dairy and eggs since they were used very frequently here and the cost to make the switch was not as much as it was to buy grass-fed beef. I was happy to see these eggs in cartons in regular stores that made my little green living heart jump. The hippie in me rejoiced to not be buying “tortured eggs” anymore. As I started to look into what these labels meant, a dark side of them started to come out. I want to share with you the truth about egg labels and what it means to you, the consumer.
The Truth About Free-Range Eggs
As you will see from many egg cartons in the store that there are several labels companies like to put on their product to get you to buy it. Some of these labels are laughable at best and some are pretty much lies. Here are some of the things you may see on egg cartons at your local store and what it really means.
‘Free-Range’- This pretty much means nothing as it is not a regulated label such as ‘organic’ is. All a company has to do to be able to place this label on eggs is to allow chickens access to fresh air outdoors. This doesn’t always mean they get to go outside an peck at the country side. It often means they get a very small concrete or dust floor that is enclosed to get fresh air.
‘Farm Fresh’- This means pretty much squat. ALL chicken eggs come from farms because after all, factory farms are still farms.
‘Cage Free’- Similar to ‘Free Range’ this means that the birds may not live in wire cases per say, but they most likely live in a large enclosure with thousands of other birds with very little space.
‘Vegetarian fed’– This is one that is confusing and laughable. You see, chickens are NOT vegetarians. They eat bugs. This means they are omnivores. So why would feeding a chicken a vegetarian diet be good for them if it’s not their natural diet?
‘Hormone Free’- This is one one those labels that also makes me giggle because it’s like “Thank you captain obvious”. Since it is illegal to give hormones to poultry in the US, I would hope all eggs are hormone free here in the US.
Where to Get Actual Free-Range Eggs
The best bet for you if you are looking for some real fresh from the farm happy chicken eggs is to either raise them yourselves (many cities even allow for a few backyard chickens) or make friends with a framer or someone who raises them. You can often also get them at your local co-op or farmer’s market. Not only is this good for you, the chickens and your family, you are also supporting local farming efforts which is great for the environment.