Eggs 101: What to Look for When Shopping for Eggs
Posted on November 29 2017
With all of the label games companies are playing these days, it can be extremely difficult to know what’s what (especially for those who are relatively new to the whole real food thing).
Most labels are extremely misleading. And since I don’t really like being lied to and wasting money on fancy labels and pseudo-facts, I feel compelled to speak up about the many marketing schemes, misinformation, and lies associated with eggs.
Of course, it isn’t my job to tell you what kind of eggs to buy. But given the vast amount of public confusion on the topic, I do want to help you discover the truth so that you can decide for yourself what is (and what isn’t) worth spending extra money on.
Free-range & Cage-free don’t mean much.
These meaningless, feel-good terms really get my blood boiling. Why?
Because they’re a total joke.
To see what I mean, check out this picture of an unspecified “free-range” chicken farm that we previously posted to our Instagram.
Even though these chickens are living inside of a grow house packed full of 30,000 birds, they can still be classified as “free-range” if they’re given ACCESS to the outdoors. Access time is not specified and it doesn’t matter whether or not the birds ever actually go outside on fresh pasture (providing the grow house isn’t surrounded by dirt, which they typically are).
The definition of “cage-free” is even more laughable. According to the USDA,
This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.
Hmmm…sounds pretty much identical to the way conventional chickens are always raised — in an enclosed building with access to food and water. Definitely not an “upgrade” that’s worth an extra buck or three at the supermarket.
…Neither does Organic.
The Organic label certifies that the hens were fed an organic feed, free of unnatural fertilizers or pesticides — but that’s about all it’s good for.
Organic chickens can (and almost always are) crammed together in grow houses and never allowed the opportunity to go outside to act like chickens and peck for bugs and grass.
All eggs are hormone-free.
This would be a convincing selling point for eggs, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s illegal for poultry to be given hormones in the U.S.
In fact, egg labels that brag about their “hormone-free” status are required to follow that claim with a statement that says, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones”.
Vegetarian-fed isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Chickens are NOT vegetarians. They’re omnivores — just like us!
And when left to their own devices in the wild, chickens get plenty of creature protein in their diets (usually from bugs and sometimes from the remains of deceased animals).
While the “vegetarian-fed” label does ensure that the hens weren’t fed animal by-products, it also guarantees that they weren’t raised outside on grass. Because if they were, there’s no way they wouldn’t be chowing down on insects on a regular basis.
If you’ve been doing your best by trying to buy Free Range, Organic eggs with No Hormones Added, let us first say we’ve been there too. We’ve felt cheated, lied to, and straight up played.
So what are the alternatives?
Find a farm near you that raises egg-laying chickens outside on pasture, adn then go to that farm and see the chickens for yourself. Also, EatWild.com is an excellent resource for finding local, sustainable egg and meat farms (but be sure to also do your own research on whatever farm you buy from).
You can also raise your own backyard hens— and have full confidence that you’re eating the healthiest eggs possible. Check out our Live Started Laying Hens and Small Batch Organic Chicken Feed, or contact info@primalpastures for more information.