True free ranging chickens, who are given a high quality feed, lay the best eggs. However, when it comes to finding the next best thing, quality eggs at the store, a consumer is faced with misleading egg labels.
The labels on eggs hardly mean what you’d expect them to mean.
Cage-Free, just means a chicken isn’t forced into a tiny cage where it lives out its entire life. It doesn’t mean they have good quality of life, quality feed, or will ever see day light. They could be confined to poultry houses, which are basically large sheds, where the chickens are packed shoulder to shoulder their whole lives.
Free-Range, you may think is a chicken that has full access to the outside and forages freely. However, USDA regulations don’t specify the quality or size of an outside range. Nor do they specify the duration of time a chicken must have access to that outside range.
Certified Organic is a term independent of the Cage-Free and Free-Range terminology. A caged chicken can receive feed that is USDA certified as organic, and therefore the egg is considered organic. If you aren’t familiar with the organic certifications, or the listing of ‘made with organic ingredients’, they also both utilize grey areas that are designed to deceive consumers, whilst allowing large producers to more easily list their goods as ‘organic’.
Shady schemes of ‘non-medicated’ and ‘hormone free’ chickens, has even lead some poultry producers to treat chickens while they are still in the embryo.
So basically, unless you know how a chicken is raised, and what it is fed, you won’t have a good idea by just reading the labels.
Research your egg source and you may learn you aren’t getting what you think you are paying for.
A lot of people ask if its worth raising your own chickens. We think it absolutely is. If you have an opportunity to keep poultry, seriously consider it. If you can’t keep poultry, find a local person who raises chickens the way you’d expect, and get your eggs through them.