Egg-cellent Tips For Choosing Eggs!
March 21, 2018
Spring is here, and chickens all over Maryland are upping production as the daylight hours increase. So, when you head to the market for eggs for the family, how do you choose the best ones? The last several years have seen a number of new designations on egg cartons that seemingly describe how the chickens who laid them are being cared for. But are the labels all they are cracked up to be? Eggs are a wonderful source of nutrition for little ones, providing much needed vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and more, so it is great to include them in your family diet. First Spoons organic baby food delivery knows that today’s Moms and Dads are busier than ever, so here is a quick break down of what those labels mean.
Labels that say “Organic” mean more than just what the hens ate. For organic certification, hens are only fed organic feed (no GMO’s or pesticides), and no animal by-products are allowed. Hens are not allowed to be given preventative antibiotics, and farms cannot sell eggs labeled as organic if a hen needs a course of antibiotics due to illness. Organic egg-laying hens also must not be raised in cages, and must have outside access.
“Omega 3” tells you that hens had diets that were supplemented with flaxseeds that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. When combined with an organic label, this would be an added nutritional benefit.
“Cage-Free” sounds good. However, the reality is not so great. Cage-free hens are allowed to move about in barns or covered coops. However, this does not mean outdoor access. Hens are fed commercial chicken feed, which can include animal by-products), and antibiotic use is unrestricted (and necessary due to crowded conditions).
“Free range” is a term that is unregulated in the United States, and so it is basically a meaningless marketing strategy. There are no restrictions on antibiotic use, or hen treatment, and hens are not guaranteed outside freedoms. The only USDA requirement to be met is “outdoor access”, which depending on the egg producer could be only a small hole in the wall, not even big enough for a hen to get through.
“Pastured” on a label should mean that hens have the ability to roam about open fields, giving them the most freedom, fresh air, access to their own natural diet, and natural living conditions. However, as in the case of “free range”, this term is not legally defined by the USDA, and is therefore unreliable. Eggs from chickens that are raised certified humane, and are in cartons bearing the HFAC Humane label as well as the pastured designation are actually raised with a minimum of 6 daylight hours outside, and minimum space requirements per hen. If you want eggs the “old fashioned way”, and don’t know a farmer, or have your own hens, Certified Humane Pastured is the closest thing to Mom and Pop’s egg farm.
Other terms you might see on an egg carton that are meaningless marketing fluff are things like “fresh, pure, natural, and gluten free.” Why are they meaningless? Well, the USDA’s standards are pretty lax, and calling something fresh, or pure, or natural is not regulated by the industry in the way that you might think. For example, arsenic is natural, but do you want to eat it? No! It is also pure, and again, don’t want to eat it. Gluten free gets tossed around because it is a buzzword. ALL eggs are gluten free, as they are not grain items. Apples are also gluten free, just because they are. Water is also naturally gluten free, and if someone is not labeling their water as such and charging more for it yet, they will soon. So don’t fall for marketing tricks.
Vegetarian diets are not optimal diets for chickens, as they are omnivores. Eating lots of buggies increases the nutritional value of the eggs they produce. Aren’t you glad they do that for you?! Egg-straordinary! If you want to make sure that hens are not being fed animal by-products, choose organic. If the carton says nothing, then the hens were raised in a nightmare, and I am not kidding you. Google commercial egg farm and see. Thousands of birds are crammed into cages so tight that they cannot even turn around, and cage-free is not much better. Imagine 500 people living in your bedroom. No cages, so that is good right? Eww. Nope.
All of the eggs that we use at First Spoons are organic, because we walk our talk. In short, whether you are in Maryland or Boston, the most important label for the busy shopper is the organic one.