We probably all shop for eggs in the market at some point. It is easy to get confused with all the different terms such as Cage-Free, Organic, No Hormones, etc.
Do you know what the labels mean?
Below is an egg label glossary that should help (with a little humor added)
What You Might Think It Means: Your friendly local farmer rises at dawn to harvest a dozen (still warm) eggs and puts them into this egg carton, which is rushed to your local store.
What It Actually Means: “It literally means nothing,” says Paul Shapiro, vice president of the Humane Society of the U.S. and an expert on commercial egg production. He says the term is probably meant to think up a favorable image in the consumer’s mind, but it has no substance whatsoever.
What You Might Think It Means: Chickens eating a “natural” diet and doing what chickens, you know, naturally do.
What It Actually Means: Once again, this phrase has no real meaning. Shapiro says it’s an ironic term, too, “because [conventional chickens] are raised in the least natural conditions imaginable.”
How exactly are most eggs in the U.S. produced?
According to the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group that includes commercial egg producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several universities, 95 percent of eggs in the U.S. come from chickens raised in something called battery cages. These cages house anywhere from four to 12 birds, giving each bird roughly 67 square inches of floor space (that’s about the size of an iPad).
Come Jan. 1, 2015, though, eggs sold in California will have to come from chickens enjoying at least 116 square inches of space.
Wow! Those lucky chickens.
The cages are stacked in long rows, inside massive barns that usually house tens of thousands of birds. They’re typically fed a mixture of corn and feed made from animal byproducts. You can see a video of one such facility here Hen Housing
Commercial egg producers note that this method of production is safe and economical. It’s what keeps egg prices down.
But many animal welfare advocates believe these battery cage facilities are inhumane. “The birds never go outside, are unable to spread their wings, and are essentially immobilized for their entire lives,” says Shapiro.
Ethics aside, this is by far the most common method of egg production. So unless a label tells you otherwise, you can assume this is what you’re buying — even if it’s labeled “Farm Fresh” or “All Natural.”
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