Cage-free. Free Run. Organic. Omega 3. Free range. Oh my! What do all these “terms” mean?
For the average consumer trying to make more mindful choices, shopping can be a major stress thanks to clever marketing and smart catchphrases that are intended to prompt us into buying products we think are good for us.
This is very apparent when it comes to buying eggs. Eggs are amazing, they are an excellent source of protein, they are packed with vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need and what’s better than eggs for dinner, right?
Since eggs are so popular the demand for them has never been higher and unfortunately, that demand is harming the very creature that provides us with them.
“Currently, an estimated 95% of eggs produced in Canada and the U.S. come from hens confined to battery cages where their movement is severely restricted and they are denied their most fundamental behavioural needs such as wing-flapping, foraging, dust bathing, perching and nesting.”
I’ve put together this handy guide with the help of my friends over at World Animal Protection.
Cage-free eggs are laid by chickens that don’t live in cages. They are mostly still living in an industrial facility, but they are on the floor of the facility and not crammed 4-6 in a cage. Cage-free labels refer to the type of housing facility the hens live in and include free run, cage free, free range and organic.
Free run or cage-free eggs mean the chickens get to go outside in an enclosed area, they get to be on the ground, they get to pick and eat bugs and grass both of which add flavour to the eggs. This is an important part of their laying cycle.
Free range eggs are similar to free run eggs except they are given outdoor access which is very beneficial to their natural inclination to forage in the grass. They also get to dust bathe and eat bugs, two very important aspects to healthy eggs.
World Animal Protection notes that “in Canada and the U.S., eggs labeled Organic not only mean hens’ feed is free of additives and animal by-products, but that they are provided with nest boxes and given access to outdoors (weather permitting). In Canada, the standards also stipulate minimum space requirements and that perches and dust bathing materials must be provided. When shopping for eggs, make sure they are LOCAL, organic AND free-range. You are going to pay more, but you are making a difference not only for your health but the welfare of the animals too. Shopping at your local farmers market is the best way to ensure the health of the egg and the chickens that produce them.”
“To add to the confusion, egg cartons may also contain other labels such as omega-3 and vegetarian feed. These labels refer only to the feed given to hens and not the housing system in which they are reared. Unless an egg carton contains one of the above labels denoting the housing system (free run/cage-free, free range, organic), it is safe to assume that eggs are produced from hens confined to battery cages.”
Shopping at your local farmer’s market is the best way to ensures the health of the egg and the chickens who produce them.
Canada egg buying guide
Knowing what to buy when it comes to your eggs can be difficult, this easy guide breaks down all the terms – cage free, free run etc. – so you can make informed decisions at the grocery store. Do you want to know more about sustainable food shopping, let me know in the comment section.