Now I Know Why Everyone in ‘Troll II’ Hated Eggs (aka Pay Attention to Egg Labels)
So, you thought you were doing a good thing for the environment, your body, and all your feathered friends by buying eggs that are free-range, cage-free, or vegetarian. Well, just like that emoji-filled text you received from your on-again, off-again fling, egg carton labels also are filled with confusing wording and not-so-clear-cut labels.
What’s an egg-loving, conscious consumer to do? The journey to enjoying a homemade, guilt-free omelet isn’t difficult to embark on, but it is wrought with a lot of research. And since no one has time to do hours of research to figure out what each egg carton label actually means, here’s an uber-quick breakdown of what to look for when you’re shopping for eggs at the market..
What Eggs Should I Buy?
Organic eggs and eggs that feature the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) labels are, by far, the best.
The Animal Welfare Approved label ensures that hens are treated with the utmost respect and fed well. According to the AWA, the group develops its standards by addressing aspects “of each species’ life-cycle needs from birth to death.” One farm that proudly touts the AWA label is California-based Long Dream Farm.
While the USDA Organic label is totally a boffo label, egg buyers still need to do some research to discover just how “good” the farm the egg’s come from is. According to Organic Authority, the USDA only regulates the hens’ feed and doesn’t really give a flip about their cages. Also: Some certified-organic egg producers still practice debeaking and forced molting. To make certain you’re supporting a farm that truly treats its hens well, check out Cornucopia’s website and consult its organic egg scorecard.
Now, another great option is to simply hoof it down to your local farmers’ market. While many locally produced eggs don’t necessarily have a label, any egg-lover can read about the farm’s egg producing policies by perusing a farm’s website, or buy chatting up the farmer who is selling the eggs.
Questionable Egg Labels
While the pastured label isn’t a terrible label for carton eggs to be adorned with (pasture raised means chickens can graze outside, and that the eggs are, typically, sourced locally — farms aren’t, however required to feed chickens organic feed), the following labels are pretty much worthless:
- Natural: Natural means nothing. It isn’t a regulatory term, and it requires farms do nothing except produce and sell eggs.
- United Egg Producers Certified: The Better Business Bureau cracked down on this label due to false advertising claims. The Humane Society reported that in late 2006, “UEP paid a $100,000 fine to settle false advertising claims by 16 state attorney general offices and the Washington, D.C., attorney general.”
- Free Range: Yes, these chickens have access to the outdoors! But the amount of access? Totally not regulated.
- Certified Humane: The standards of this label are really unclear, which basically means, they are totally worthless. According to Organic Authority, “the certification does prohibit cages, antibiotics and hormones, it does not ensure outdoor access for chickens and still allows for debeaking, which is typically done without anesthetics.”
- Cage-Free: These chicks don’t reside in cages, but they also aren’t guaranteed a fresh, clean place to live, and are not guaranteed a life outdoors. Also, many of these hens are fed GMOS, and may be treated with antibiotics or hormones.
- Vegetarian Eggs: This is probably the most misleading term out there, as chickens are naturally omnivores. Ignore this label unless it comes with an organic label, too. And even then, do your research to find out how these chicks are actually treated on the farm.
So, now that you’re up to date on egg regulations and terminology, you can wow your health conscious date this weekend with your knowledge, and surprise your date with an organic, AWA egg omelette the morning after.