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Egg Labels: Cracking the Case

Lately, there is new terminology for eggs with a large variation in price points which may add some confusion at the grocery store.  Below is a list of current egg descriptors and just what they mean.

Humane

This seal is given by various third-party organizations and includes claims such as “Certified Humane” and “American Welfare Approved” which indicate that the farm where they were laid meets certain factors such as flock density.  The standards vary with the organization and have no US regulatory standing.

Cage-Free and Free-Range

These terms are USDA-regulated but still somewhat ambiguous.  Generally, they refer to eggs from chickens who live in open barns rather than in battery cages as is the case with conventional eggs.  Free-range birds also have some outdoor access, while cage-free do not.  Cage-free chickens are kept indoors but allowed to roam and have outdoor access. The type of outdoor access is not specified, nor is the flock density.

Certified Organic

Like free-range birds, these chickens have unspecified outdoor access and are fed organic feed without animal by-products, hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides.  In some instances, the land on which the chickens graze must also meet organic requirements.  Organic certification is governed by the USDA National Organic Program, although third-party organizations support the requirements and verification process to gain the certification.

Non-GMO

The chickens are fed a diet free of any genetically modified organisms.  This does not automatically mean these eggs are organic.

Omega-3 Enriched

All eggs contain low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but these birds are fed supplements such as flaxseed and fish oil to increase those levels.

Farm Fresh or Vegetarian Fed

Farm fresh is not an FDA or USDA regulated term and means nothing.  Any claims about vegetarian fed are also marketing lingo.  Hens are omnivores that eat insects, grub, and worms.  Any hen that has been fed only a vegetarian diet has likely been confined indoors with no outdoor access.

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Posted on 5 May 2021