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A trip through the grocery store can be so confusing! So many labels anymore, on everything, but what do those labels really mean? Is the product really better or safer if it has a particular label? The next few weeks I’m going to go over the different labels found in the store and break them down for you.
Keep in mind any extra label requires extra documentation. This translates into an increased cost for the consumer. I highly recommend finding a local producer for whatever you wish to buy and ask questions. Find one that aligns with your values and purchase directly from them if possible. Last week we talked about Meat, you can read that here. This week eggs are up.
Non-GMO means the hens are fed a diet free from gm crops or by products. They can still be caged or building confined. But do have a balanced diet fit to their needs.
Vegetarian fed means the hens are not fed animal or animal by products. Naturally, chickens are not vegetarians, but omnivores. When allowed to roam and consume what they wish, they will eat bugs, worms, mice, small snakes and such.
Free range means the hens have continuous access to outdoors, though that space may or may not be fenced or covered. Free range can simply be access to an outdoor pen space, or a mobile fenced unit. Most production chickens are fenced in some way for a couple reasons. First there are many predators who love chicken and true pen free ranging results in loss from those predators (fox, coyote, hawk, etc.). Secondly hens are expert egg hiders.
Pasture raised is a tricky label. It is not a regulated term, but implies the hens are raised in a pasture. This is purely a marketing term.
Cage free means the hens can move within building and have unlimited access to food and fresh water. This means nothing about their ability to go outside.
Natural - This label means the eggs are minimally processed, and contains no preservatives, or artificial ingredients. Pretty much all eggs are sold this way (except for those beloved Reese’s easter eggs) whether the label says it or not. It is mostly a marketing tool.
No added hormones – This is also a marketing label. Use of hormones has been outlawed in poultry since 1950s, so all eggs are the same here.
Organic - Means no growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified (GM) crops, or animal by-products were fed ever, and the hens have access to the outside. These are most likely your highest priced eggs in the store. Why? Sourcing and cost of the feed is expensive. Plus, the documentation required to sell the eggs as such. Many producers are not willing to do the extra paperwork, for such a small increase in profit.
Again, if you are truly concerned about your eggs and where they came from find a local producer. Many people have back yard chickens and will gladly sell you some of their eggs and even show you where the hens live. Farmers markets is another good place to find local egg producers.
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