The huge egg recall is affecting consumers nationwide. They are worried about egg quality and have somewhere in their mind, if they may be a next target for salmonella infection. If your are wondering the same while buying eggs and confused what types of eggs are healthy for you. Here is some information that can guide you in choosing healthy eggs.
You might have seen egg carton labels having information like cage free, free range, organic etc. This article describes what does the label mean that might help you to choose healthy eggs for you and your family.
More than 90 percent of U.S. eggs come from caged hens. These birds have a space smaller than the size of a sheet of paper to move around, and live in filthy conditions. So, it is important to choose right eggs.
Understanding Egg Marketing Labels
Organic – A USDA-certified organic label means the eggs came from hens that were uncaged inside barns or warehouses, and were required to have outdoor access. They were fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. Annual inspections are required.
Pastured – “Pastured” means the chickens were raised on pasture, with access to the sun, grass, bugs, and possibly supplemented with grains and other feed. There’s no third-party inspection required to ensure that’s what’s really happening. The best option is to buy eggs from pastured hens at a local farm that raises the hens organically, ensuring they’re not exposed to pesticides, animal by-products, or antibiotics.
Certified Humane – The birds are allowed to access inside barns or warehouses, but may be kept indoors at all times. They have the space to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density and number of perches and nesting boxes. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited. Certified Humane is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care that sets limits on the number of birds that can be contained in the same area, and outside. The program does not require that the animals eat organic feed. Third party auditing is necessary for compliance.
Vegetarian – The hen is fed a vegetarian feed. Since chickens...
are omnivores, not vegetarians, and will naturally eat bugs, grubs, etc. This label does not have significant relevance to the animals living conditions.
Cage-Free – The label “cage free” does not mean there are any standards or auditing mechanisms in place. Cage-free means that hens are not kept in cages, however, they are kept inside in an enclosed building that allows them to engage in some of their natural behaviors such as walking and nesting. Cage-free does not imply antibiotics were not used on hens.
Free-Range or Free-Roaming – There are no standards for free range egg production. Usually, free range egg-laying hens are allowed to have barns or warehouses and outdoor access. They can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. However, there is no information on stocking density, the frequency or duration of outdoor access, or the quality of the land accessible to the birds. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. There is no third-party auditing.
Omega-3-Enriched – This means hens were fed with an increased amount of omega-3-rich flaxseeds. However, pasture-raised hens are already higher in beneficial omega-3s. All in all, this label has no significance to animal welfare.
Natural – This label has no significance to animal welfare.
United Egg Producers Certified – This along with natural is one of the most misleading claims made on an egg carton. It permits routine cruel and inhumane factory farm practices such as hens are confined in restrictive, barren cages and cannot perform many of their natural behaviors, including perching, nesting, foraging or even fully stretching their wings. This is a program of the United Egg Producers
I hope next time when you will buy eggs you might be able to relate the label terms and get the healthiest eggs.