Every now and again something about eggs pops up and I’ve learned more than I care to know about eggs. My wife cares what kind of eggs we buy but I don’t…maybe I should.

We buy the eggs shown above. They’re free-range, certified humane with No Antibiotics, Hormones of Animal By-Products. I suppose I do care about the antibiotics part since the overuse of antibiotics, in farming, is creating new resistances to antibiotics. They’re also brown, because she wants brown eggs. You might buy a certain type of eggs but do you know what free range, cage free, etc. means?

First, the color of the egg doesn’t really matter. White feathered chickens lay white eggs while dark feathered chickens lay brown eggs. They separate them in different cartons because its more aesthetically pleasing to the consumer. If you eggs don’t say anything on them, they likely come from a chicken kept in a cage, if not here are the differences:

Under the certified humane category:

Regular (cage-free)

  • Birds are uncaged inside barns but may be kept indoors all the time
  • Birds must be able to nest, perch and dust-bathe
  • Suppliers must follow regulations for stocking density, perch numbers and nesting boxes

Free-range

  • Birds must have access to an outdoor area for at least six hours each day
  • Each hen must have at least 2 square feet (288 square inches) of outdoor space
  • The outdoor space doesn’t need to have any living vegetation

-If not certified humane, Some free-range chickens only have access to a cement porch with a small amount of grass, but in some cases industrial fans for ammonia removal can create winds that discourage them from going outside. You may need to find out what free range means to the farm your eggs come from.

Pasture-raised

  • Birds must be placed on a pasture for at least six hours each day
  • Each hen must have at least 108 square feet (15,552 square inches) of pasture
  • The pasture must be covered mainly with living vegetation

 

If an egg is labeled “organic,” the USDA has certified the chicken is free range, eats only organic feed and has not been given any hormones or antibiotics. But remember, “free range” does not mean the chicken spends all day outside. Also hormones cannot legally be given to U.S. chickens, and antibiotics are seldom used in egg-producing chickens.

The eggs we buy are only $1 more per dozen so it’s not too big of a hit to the wallet. The healthiest chickens are pasture raised but those eggs are usually over $5/dozen.

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