Egg Labels Defined
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Natural, organic, no antibiotics, no hormones, cage-free, and pasture raised. What do they mean? Which options are more healthy? To decipher this labeling I visited the USDA website on labeling eggs. Here is what you I found:
100% Natural. USDA states that “the term ‘natural’ doesn’t indicate how the chicken was raised. It simply means that nothing was added to the egg like flavorings, brines or coloring.” It’s all about how the egg was processed and not how it was raised.
Organic. USDA states that “certified organic eggs are from uncaged hens that are allowed free range of their houses and access to outdoor spaces. They are fed an organic diet produced according to the USDA’s National Organic Program standards.” This addresses environmental issues and not how the hens are treated.
No Added Hormones. “Hormones aren’t allowed to be given to chickens ever. USDA states that if the label “no hormones added” claim is used on a label, it must be followed by a statement that makes it clear that federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.” This label is added as a marketing gimmick.
No Antibiotics. USDA state that “no antibiotics labels indicate that the laying hens were raised without antibiotics of any type.” This label pertains only to not using antibiotics and does not say anything about how the hens are raised.
Cage Free. USDA states that “Cage-free eggs must be produced by hens housed in a building, room, or enclosure that allows for unlimited access to food and water and provides the freedom to roam the area during the laying cycle. Cage-free hens are NOT required to have access to the outdoors and do not produce more nutritional eggs.” No reference to space requirements and the hens are not required to have access to the outdoors.
Free Range. USDA states that “Free range eggs must be produced by cage-free hens housed in a building, room, or area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their laying cycle.” What does outdoor access mean? There is no time stipulation or space requirements.
Pasture Raised is not regulated by the USDA. So, it can be another marketing gimmick.
Lately I’ve noticed “Certified Humane” on some cartons. So, I looked it up. Certified Humane is a program started by the Humane Farm Animal Care. “This label assures consumers that farmers are adhering to a precise set of Animal Care Standards written by renowned veterinarians and animal welfare scientists. In addition to lighting, air, and food requirements, these standards also require cage-free living, enrichment's for the hens, like perches and proper space where they can do what hens do, like flapping their wings or dust bathing their feathers.” Now all I look for is the Certified Humane label!
Thank you for stopping by to learn a little more about labeling on eggs. I hope you found it educational.