Understanding Eggs Labels

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Free Range Eggs

(And What to Do Instead)

Knowing full well the inhumane and downright disgusting practices of factory farms, you probably pay close attention to labels when purchasing eggs from the grocery store: Labels like “Free Range” , “Organic” , “Hormone-Free” , “Antibiotic-Free”.

Think these words somehow make your eggs more healthy, humane, and natural? Think again …!

What does « organic eggs » really mean?

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The term organic simply means that the chickens’ feed has been certified by a government agency to contain no unnatural fertilizers or pesticides. However, the chickens may still be living their lives stacked two-high in a feed house, defecating on one another in a life of chicken misery.

The Trump administration has announced plans to withdraw a Obama-era USDA regulation that would have required organic egg producers to give their hens room to graze outdoors in order to minimize stress, facilitate natural behaviors, and promote well-being. Current organic rules require animals to have “access” to the outdoors. However, the largest egg producers have built chicken houses that hold tens of thousands of hens, and the hens have access to the outdoors only through small enclosed “porches.” It is a subversion of comprehensive federal animal welfare standards approved by the USDA.

What does « free range » really mean ?

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This certification has been widely abused throughout the poultry community.  One might think the term should mean that the birds have room to explore, play, and forage. But this has come to mean something entirely different. These chickens are considered free range because they have the “option” to explore  (even if the feed house is surrounded by dirt and the chickens literally never go outside to act like chickens).  You may want to rethink paying the extra $5 for this “upgrade”the next time you’re at the supermarket.

What does « Antibiotic free » really mean?

Antibiotic-free claims on egg cartons can be only be made by egg producers who choose not to use any antibiotics in feed or water during the growing period of pullets or while hens are laying eggs. Flocks producing certified organic eggs must be antibiotic free by regulation.

Although this label does carry more weight than it’s “hormone-free” cousin, it still doesn’t count for much. If a chicken’s living conditions necessitate the need for disease-preventing antibiotics, you can bet that chicken is far from living on a pasture with plenty of space to roam and forage.

What does « Hormones free » really mean?

In the United States, it’s actually illegal for commercial egg-laying hens to be given hormones — for good reason. But I can’t blame any company for bragging about the “hormone-free” status of their product as most people have no idea this is an industry standard.

What is the solution ?

Buy pasture-raised eggs from your local farmer ! If you aren’t into supporting inhumane farming practices and feeding antibiotic infested chicken eggs raised on grains and soy, think twice before trusting what you read at the supermarket.

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