Posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 at 5:27 pm
Buying eggs at the grocery store has gotten more complicated in recent years. When you were a child, your parents probably looked at the brand of the eggs and the price. Today, there are a lot of other labels to be aware of. Do you understand the difference between free range and cage free? What about all those other labels?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not developed a definition for the term natural (or its derivatives) on a food label. In general, it allows the use of the term on a product label if the food does not contain any added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.
The word natural evokes a feeling of purity and wholesomeness. Some foods with that label are better than others. Natural doesn’t always mean that the food hasn’t had something added to it.
Cage-Free on an egg carton label describes a little bit about how the chickens who laid those eggs were treated. Cage-Free indicates that the chickens were uncaged. Those chickens did not spend their entire existence in a small cage. They were able to freely walk around, nest, and engage in other normal chicken behaviors.
The thing to be aware of with the cage-free label is that it doesn’t automatically mean that the chickens were allowed to have access to the outdoors. They might be freely walking around in an indoor environment. That indoor environment could be small.
Free Range can also be called Free Roaming. The terms are interchangeable. These descriptions on an egg carton label describe how the chickens who laid those eggs were treated. Free Range, or Free Roaming, chickens were uncaged. They were able to walk around freely, and engage in nesting and other normal chicken behaviors.
The difference between Free Range/Free Roaming and Cage-Free is simple. Cage-Free chickens may or may not have been allowed access to the outdoors. Free Range/Free Roaming chickens did have access to the outdoors. It doesn’t say much about what that outdoor environment was like.
When you see the phrase Pasture Raised on an egg carton label, it means that the chickens who laid those eggs were raised in a pasture. These chickens did not have cages. They spend most of their time outdoors. At night, they were brought inside so they could sleep in a protected environment.
The word organic on an egg carton label can be a bit confusing. It doesn’t specifically describe the eggs at all. Instead, it indicates that the chickens who laid those eggs were fed with certified organic feed. It also means the farmer’s practices have been certified as organic.