Cracking the Truth on Egg Carton Labels



Today's blog post was written by Baillie McKenzie NDTR and is a dietetic intern for Wellness Workdays.


Grocery shopping can sometimes be a daunting task. There are thousands of products, with hundreds of labels, for all of us to determine which is the best to buy. When it comes to shopping for eggs, it can be even harder with labels such as cage-free, range-free, vegetarian fed, or pasture-raised adding more confusion as which ones we should buy. As consumers, how can we know that we are choosing the best product? First, we need to take a deeper look and define what these phrases actually mean to us and the hens that lay the eggs.



The term “cage-free” means that hens are uncaged, allowed to engage in normal chicken behaviors, however, they have no access to the outdoors, beak cutting, to prevent pecking and cannibalism, and starvation-forced molting are not prohibited. These hens are also slaughtered at less than 2 years old. Although they lay eggs in a nest, the conditions are still cramped.

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Hens that are “range-free” are uncaged, able to walk around, and allowed to engage in normal chicken behaviors. Although hens have outdoor access, not all hens are able to go outside due to the number of hens. The outdoor access certification, which is government certified, does not include environment quality, number of hens and space per hen. Like cage-free eggs, beak cutting, to prevent pecking and cannibalism, and starvation-forced molting are not prohibited.



When hens are in their natural environment, they graze on insects and bugs, meaning they are not vegetarians. Hens that are fed a vegetarian diet are given rations of corn and soybeans that are supplemented with synthetic methionine, which is found in bugs and insects. If hens don’t receive methionine, they can potentially fall ill. Typically, the corn and soybean that is fed to the hens are not from an organic source because the federal organic program has been limiting on how much can be fed to hens.

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Pasture-raised hens are uncaged, free to walk. Have outside access. There are usually about 1,000 hens for every 2.5 acres. To be considered pasture-raised, hens must have access to outdoors all year with mobile or fixed housing that they can use to protect themselves. Since these hens are able to use their natural behaviors and eat their preferred diet of bugs and insects, they can contain up to 20 times healthier omega-3 fatty acids.

What Does This All Mean?

Now that we know the definitions of what labels are placed all over egg cartons, what does that mean to us? Which eggs should we reach for when shopping for our eggs?

  1. Pasture-Raised (Best Choice)
  2. Range-Free
  3. Cage-Free

If you’re wanting the best choice in eggs, check out ROCK store as we offer pasture-raised, soy free, Non-GMO eggs!


Happy Egg Hunting!

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