I know that this may seem like a very random topic, but I swear it is necessary to know. This term, I am in a class called Urban Farm. The course is just what it seems like… we essentially just garden and farm all day. It is awesome. Anyway, so for one of our class assignments is to eat local for one day. And you can define local as anything; I explained local at the west coast of the United States. As one of my local foods, I replaced store-bought eggs with my teachers, farm-fresh eggs. And wow, was there a difference. The color of the eggs, the size of the eggs, and the taste of the farm-fresh eggs were immaculate. This difference made me research store-bought eggs and what all of the crazy labels on the egg cartons really mean.
Thankfully, Sarah Jampel at Bon Appetit was thinking the same thing, and she identified all of the different label meanings.
- Cage-free or Free-range eggs
While these chickens are not housed in metal cages, they are most likely housed in warehouses with little space to exercise. Then they have little access to the outdoors and live most of their lives inside of warehouses.
This term is not regulated by the USDA, meaning, never really trust this label unless it is also certified ‘humane.’
- Certified Organic
This only means that the chickens are fed organic feed. But, the chickens still are housed in warehouses and have minimal outdoor access.
- Natural or Vegetarian-fed
This label is pointless. Hens are natural omnivores, meaning they are meant to eat worms and other ground insects. If hens are vegetarian fed, they are most likely living in cages or warehouses where they cannot eat ground insects.
So, I guess what we learned from this is that all labels are meaningless. I know that these labels may sound discouraging. There are minimal options in grocery stores. The best advice that I could give is to find a local farmer in your community you can buy eggs directly from. Supporting our local farmers is becoming more and more critical. The average American only spends 10% of their yearly income on their food. And I am aware that eating locally is often more expensive, so it is not feasible for everyone. But, if it is possible for you, then try your best to support locals.
Next time you are perusing your local Safeway or Whole Foods, take a look at the labels and decide for yourself if you are comfortable with how these chickens are being raised and in what condition your eggs are being produced.