Egg-zactly What you thought? How to Tell The Difference Between Eggs

Healthy EggsDo you think information overload occurs only when surfing the internet  So did I, until I realized that walking in to a supermarket with over 60,000 unique sku’s.* To make matters worse, it is no longer simple when you go there just to buy eggs! Not only do you have to decide the size of the egg and the quantity but now you must know what the descriptors on the cartons mean before choosing the right ones, such as: cage-free, free-range, organic, etc.

I thought you may a few seconds of information  may assist you in making your egg buying options a little less confusing! Here are some explanations on egg terms:

Cage-Free Eggs

Cage-free seems pretty straight forward. These are eggs from hens not kept in cages. They are usually kept on floors in an open barn where they are able engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting and spreading their wings but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. They may still, however be kept in close quarters with many other hens. unfortunately beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no mandatory third-party auditing.

Free-Range Eggs

Although the USDA has defined the meaning of “free-range” for some poultry products, there are no government-regulated standards in “free-range” egg production required to make the claim.  Although free-range hens are uncaged inside barns with outdoor access, they access may mean a tiny door that the bird may never attempt to exit. Furthermore, because there is no regulation of this term, there are also no requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access nor are there any restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed and.

Organic Eggs

Organic eggs are laid from hens that are usually cage free. They are fed organic feed and do not receive vaccines, hormones, antibiotics or any other drugs.

If they have USDA organic certification, the grains used for these hens’ diets must be produced on land that has been free from the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers for at least three years.

Vegetarian Eggs

Vegetarian eggs are laid from hens that are only fed a meat and fish free vegetarian diet. Hens may be kept in cages or indoors.

Omega-3 Enriched Eggs  These hens are fed feed that is supplemented with an Omega-3 source like flax seeds. They may or may not be cage free and may have had some access to the outside. These eggs contain higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids than conventional eggs.

Pasture-Raised (NOT to be confused with Pasteurized)

The USDA has not defined the meaning of “pasture-raised” for egg production, and therefore no government-regulated standards in “pasture-raised” egg production are required to make the claim. Typically, pasture-raised hens are kept outdoors for most of the year, on a spacious pasture covered with living plants, and are kept indoors at night. There are however no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed and no requirements for the amount of time spent on the pasture, the amount of space per bird, or the quality of the pasture. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted.


Pasteurized Eggs

Pasteurized eggs are eggs in their shell that have been put through a pasteurization process where they are heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for three and a half minutes. Eggs are not required to be pasteurized. Chickens are allowed to roam free, eating plants and insects (their natural food) along with some commercial feed.


Organic, free-range, and cage free have nothing to do with contamination, such as salmonella.

To protect yourself from contamination, here are some tips:

  • Do not use eggs that are cracked or leaking, These may transfer  bacteria.
  • Eggs should be refrigerated to at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Cook eggs thoroughly so the white and yolk are firm, which ensures salmonella is killed if present.
  • Wash hands, utensils, and preparation surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water when handling and preparing eggs.
  • Use pasteurized eggs for recipes that call for raw egg in foods like salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, etc.
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system should also eat pasteurized eggs, especially young children and elderly.


*SKU (pronounced “skew”) Stands for “Stock Keeping Unit. It is a number or string of alpha and numeric characters that uniquely identify each product.

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