Not so long ago, you only had to choose between white eggs and brown eggs. I picked white, because they were the cheapest. Now, store shelves are stuffed with different egg varieties. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between cage-free, free-range, and organic eggs and if they’re worth the price variations, read on!
Factory farms, where chickens are raised en-masse, are pretty scary places. New Yorker writer Michael Specter, on his first visit to a chicken farm, describes his experience:
“I was almost knocked to the ground by the overpowering smell of feces and ammonia. My eyes burned and so did my lungs, and I could neither see nor breathe….There must have been thirty thousand chickens sitting silently on the floor in front of me. They didn’t move, didn’t cluck. They were almost like statues of chickens, living in nearly total darkness, and they would spend every minute of their six-week lives that way.“
Factory hens spend their lives in little cages, laying eggs over and over. No sunlight, no movement. They can’t even walk. They certainly aren’t living like chickens were meant to live or eating like chickens were meant to eat. These conditions translate to less nutrition for us, not to mention it’s a lousy way for a chicken to be treated!
Cage-free hens live life a step up. They aren’t trapped in little cages but I wouldn’t say it’s much better. They still have no access to the outdoors.
Free-range can be better. Regulations only state that chickens must have access to the outdoors. That could mean there’s a door they could use.
Or, it could mean they live like this photo shows of a farm in New York. To find eggs like that, choose smaller brands in the store, and buy local if it all possible.
Organic means that they are only fed organic feed and raised without antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides.
How do we get our eggs? My preference is to be able to find them locally. If they’re not available, I choose free-range, organic eggs. I feel like those are the healthiest option for my family. I also remember that I’m voting with my dollars. If I want to see changes in the industry, then every time I choose organic and free-range, I’m voting for better living conditions for the animals that provide nutrition for us!