The Best Eggs to Buy: Cage-Free vs. Free Range and Organic vs. Omega-3
The Best Eggs to Buy
I used to be clueless on the best type of eggs to buy at the grocery store.
Cage-free versus free range?
Organic versus enriched with omega-3?
Should I pay $1.50 for a dozen eggs, or pay the premium and pay $4.00 for a carton of eggs?
I knew that color doesn’t matter for eggs (brown and white eggs are the same – it just depends on the color of the chicken), but I didn’t know the most humane type of eggs to buy, nor the most nutritional. So I did research online and got my egg-facts straight.
The Different Types of Eggs and the Best Eggs to Buy
Continue reading to learn about the different types of eggs and the healthiest eggs to buy in the grocery store.
1. Cage-Free vs. Free Range vs. Pasture-Raised
The first type of label on eggs is related to how much room the chickens have to move around.
Cage-free, free range, and pasture-raised refer to the living conditions for chickens.
The options are cage-free, free range, and pasture-raised.
|Living Condition||Area of Square Feet||Notes|
|Caged||<0.5 square feet||You will never see this advertised on packaging, as it’s the worst living condition.|
|Cage-Free||1 square feet||Sounds good, but cage-free chickens do not have access to the outdoors and the living conditions can be cramped.|
|Free Range||2 square feet||Chickens have access to the outdoors, but there are no standards. Access to the outdoors could mean access to cement or dirt.|
|Pasture-Raised||More than 108 square feet||The best living condition. These hens have room to roam outdoors.|
The image below from Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Hens has a nice visual of the living conditions.
As you can see, there isn’t much of a difference between cage-free and free range.
If you are going to pay more for eggs, go ahead and buy eggs where the chickens are pasture-raised. Pasture-raised chickens are also more likely to lay eggs with more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin A, and beta-carotene.
2. Organic Fed vs. Enriched With Omega-3
Organic vs. “enriched with omega-3” refers to what chickens are fed. Both options are good.
Organic Feed for Chickens
“Organic” is a good thing to look for on your egg packaging. Organic or USDA Organic means that the hens’ feed is certified organic. Vegetarian fed is also a good word to look for.
Omega-3 Enriched Feed
Enriched with omega-3 means that the chickens are fed an enriched diet to increase the omega-3 count.
Eggland’s Best is a common egg brand that advertises a higher omega-3 count.
The Eggland’s Best eggs have 125 mg of omega-3 per egg, versus the standard 30-50 mg.
Watch-Out: Feed is unrelated to living conditions. Neither organic nor enriched with omega-3 have anything to do with a hen’s living conditions.
3. Non-GMO versus Vegetarian Feed
Non-GMO versus vegetarian feed also refers to what chickens are fed.
You may also see the terms of “non-GMO” and “vegetarian feed” on egg packaging. Again, neither of these terms have anything to do with how a chicken is treated. Non-GMO means that a chicken is fed a diet that is free from GMOs. Non-GMO is NOT the same as organic.
Vegetarian feed means that hens aren’t fed animal byproducts (e.g., ground up chicken). Vegetarian-fed is pretty much a marketing ploy. Vegetarian means that the chickens ate grains, seeds, and anything they may have found outside (e.g., earthworms or insects).
4. “Natural” and “No Added Hormones” or “Hormone Free”
Finding eggs that say “natural” and “no added hormones” sounds good, but it actually means nothing.
Ignore egg labels that say “natural” and “no hormones added” or “hormone free.”
Federal regulations have never allowed the use of hormones in chickens, so it’s meaningless! The USDA clarifies that egg products are natural when they contain no artificial ingredients, added color, and are only minimally processed. No basically all eggs are natural.
Summary: The Best Type of Eggs to Buy are from Pasture Raised Chickens
If you are confused by the best type of egg to buy, go with eggs that state “pasture raised” on the label.
These eggs have high omega-3s and the chickens are likely raised within relatively humane living conditions.
Free range may sound like it’s the best choice, but pasture raised is better.
Many people love the Vital Farms eggs.
Good luck shopping! Check out more nutritional tips to discover the other foods I eat regularly.
-Chrissy from the Jeans Fit