We’ve all heard the claims…farm fresh eggs taste the best! They have higher protein, they’re better for you, and on and on and on!! I, myself happen to be a crazy chicken lady so, I know first hand that the title of “tasting better” is dead on! Free-range. Organic. Brown. White. Cage-free. Just what do all of these egg carton labels mean? Today I dive into the world of the chicken egg to explore just what makes those farm fresh eggs a hot item & why they’ll cost you more than the eggs found on the shelf at your grocery store!
Let’s tackle the egg carton label! With so many different labels on eggs these days, it’s hard to decipher just what farming practices you are supporting. For example: you may think that by buying those “free range” eggs means that you are adhering to your “organic” diet, but did you know that even though they are toted to be free range, there is no regulation as to what the chicken is actually fed? In a nutshell, if your hen’s diet is not organic & packed full of antibiotics then the eggs you are consuming are not considered to be organic at all! Not to mention that mass produced eggs are usually produced by hens that have never seen the light of day & have spent their life inside a cage that isn’t much bigger than their body!!
Most people will buy whatever is cheapest without thinking of the hen that produced that beautiful gem. We’ve become so disconnected to where our food actually comes from that we forget that indeed it WAS a chicken that gave us the egg & not a factory. Below are a few labels that can help you make a decision the next time your swamped with all the happy pictures of hens frolicking in the fields that are depicted on some of those grocery store cartons.
Organic– Chicken eggs that are labeled cage free are free to move around with the ability to go outdoors (even though the time spent outdoors is not clearly defined). These chickens must be free from hormones & fed a vegetarian organic diet. If I was in a bind & didn’t have access to a farm fresh egg, these would be the better choice at the supermarket;)
Free Range– Yes, these chickens are free to roam cage free for at least part of the day. There is no regulation to how long they are allowed to roam or the quality of outdoor access. They also have no regulation as to what the hen can be fed
Cage Free– Chickens are out of cages with a continuous supply of food & water, but not necessarily access to the outdoors. There is no regulation as to what they are fed. This may not sound so bad, but it also means that hens can be over populated in small areas (think small shed) with not much room to move.
Certified Humane– Chickens are cage free in a large barn or warehouse where the population is controlled so there isn’t over crowding. Chickens have enough room to perform natural behaviors, but they may not have access to the outdoors.
Animal Welfare Approved– Chickens are allowed to roam endlessly through fields, pastures, or homesteads on pesticide free vegetation! They are also not allowed to have their beaks cut, which is a common practice that is allowed on all of the above definitions. These eggs can usually only be found at specialty health food stores or farmers markets.
The luxury of buying your eggs from your local chicken farmer is knowing that you can talk with them about the hen’s diet & see first hand the conditions in which the hen is being raised. I don’t think you’ll get that by calling the customer service number on the bottom of your egg carton at the supermarket! Yes, farm fresh eggs can be a bit pricier, but if you have ever seen the love & compassion that is shown by true chicken farmers, then you can easily see that there is a lot more to it then raising chicks & letting nature take it’s course! Many chicken farmers practice natural chicken raising by providing an unbeatable diet & treating their feathered friends with natural methods instead of pharmaceutical ones. I will be the first to say that raising chickens is not a cheap hobby, but it’s one that pays you back with a beautiful supply of top shelf eggs!
One last thought…what is up with that YOLK!!?
Yes, this is a common question from folks that are newbies to farm fresh eggs lol! A chicken that is allowed to be free to forage for food such as tender grasses & insects will have a much brighter yolk! Orange in color & packed full of healthy goodness!! This deep yolk color is a tell tale sign of just how good the hen that layed your egg has it! They have plenty of access to hunt down the food that they love, & believe me they love to hunt! Foraging is part of their natural behavior, not consuming endless amounts of powdered food.
So, if you can’t handle the bright yolk, the added nutritional value or the slight increase in price,that’s okay. More for us folks who love these little hen apples and equally love the hens who make them! Never tried one? Go ahead, you know you’re interested & I promise you won’t be disappointed! Who doesn’t like to support their local farmer anyway? Do you know where your food comes from? I do!!!!!