Ready to stock up on eggs for your Easter egg hunt? Maybe you’ve taken a cruise through the egg aisle at the supermarket and noticed the myriad of terms that appear on the cartons. Free-range, Organic, All-Natural, Cage-free, and so on. These all sound like good things, but what do they actually mean?
If you’re confused about some of the labeling and marketing terms you’ve seen on egg cartons, you’re not alone. Let’s demystify some common egg labeling terms:
All-Natural or Farm Fresh
What it sounds like: Chickens eating a natural chicken diet and doing chicken-ish things at a green, grassy farm under blue skies with a big red barn in the background. A local farmer hand picking eggs and putting them into the carton.
What it really means: Nothing, actually. Words like farm fresh or all-natural are used to create wholesome images in a customer’s mind, but they have no substance. They aren’t regulated by the USDA, and in essence mean nothing about how the chickens were raised or the eggs were produced.
That brings up a question—how are most eggs produced in the U.S.?
According to the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, 95 percent of eggs in the U.S. come from chickens raised in battery cages. These cages house anywhere from four to 12 birds, giving each chicken a space roughly the size of a piece of copier paper. The cages are stacked in long rows in big barns or warehouses that contain thousands of birds. They’re typically fed a diet of corn and animal byproducts.