How to Buy Eggs

Do you go to the grocery store and stand there in front of the eggs and think, “What the heck does all this mean? I’m just trying to buy eggs!”

Yeah, me too. So I figured it might help if we decoded the egg thing for everyone and didn’t leave you to the mercy of egg industry marketing. We don’t sell eggs but we want you to eat the best and healthiest foods for you and your family.

Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Organic

A little murkier than it seems. Organic eggs come from cage-free chickens (see #4: access to an outside space but likely don’t use it) and they are fed only organic feed, given antibiotics only if they have an infection, and are free of hormones or other drugs. That’s better than most. The down side here? The cage-free thing, unless the egg box reads otherwise.

  1. Free Range

The chickens have “access” to the outside. What does that mean? Open to interpretation. There are no specifications to the duration or quality of that outside access. In reality, Free Range often means that the chickens are crammed together in a big warehouse with a tiny door on the end that opens to a few feet of outside dirt. Most of them probably don’t know that door exists but it’s there.

  1. Cage-Free

The chickens weren’t raised in cages. They might still be in very close quarters (think shoulder-to-shoulder) in a building where they pretty much can’t budge. They might be standing in a pile of their own dung. But they’re not in a cage and they have little or no access to the outdoors.

  1. Vegetarian-Fed

That seems great, right? Not so fast. Chickens are omnivores and often eat bugs and insects. But a “vegetarian-raised” chicken only ate industrialized feed and never went outside. Pass.

  1. Pasture Raised

Could be the best option you find. Why? This is the term being used by sustainable farmers who are raising their chickens outdoors.

Although this term is new and it’s not yet regulated, pasture-raised chickens have access to outdoor pastures with fresh greens and insects they like to eat. Did you know chickens are omnivores? They’ll eat beetles, grasshoppers, worms, crickets, ticks, and spiders. Sometimes they’ll even eat mice, moles, and small snakes. This is when you see the deep-orange yolks! That chicken ate a healthy diet for them and so their eggs are full of nutrients. Buy these eggs!

Note (submitted by a customer): The color of the yolks is indeed dependent on what they ate, but it doesn’t mean it’s better. A yolk can be a dark yellow color if the chicken ate a lot of food that was especially designed to do that. For example, Purdue farms feeds its chicken marigolds on purpose. In the case of the egg yolks, the more corn versus rice the chicken eats the darker yellow the yolk will be. A caged chicken fed inorganic food containing marigolds can have a dark yellow yolk. The only prohibition is that the farmer is not allowed to feed the chickens an artificial dye specifically to darken the yolk color. The farmer *is free* though to feed the chicken food that naturally darkens the yolk.