As an agriculture major, there’s a lot of things about current trends that irk me. Keywords and phrases are used without properly educating anyone on what they actually mean. Documentaries on the agricultural community don’t really help. I have watched a ton of Netflix documentaries and continue to get so angry because they are all biased and super one sided. The only agricultural documentary that I would ever recommend is Sustainable. Not only is the imagery beautiful, but the message is educational.
So let’s take a look at some hot topic phrases for the egg industry and what they actually mean.
- Cage Free – Same building, no cages. Each bird gets about 1 square foot of space.
- Free Range – Cage free plus access to the outdoors. In most commercial situations, these are small doors in their housing and a lot of times they don’t use them. In smaller operations, this can easily mean access to a fenced in yard during the day with access to shelter/housing for overnight.
- Pasture Raised – These chickens are raised to spend most of their days outdoors with access to a barn
- Farm Fresh – Actually this term has no meaning for the egg industry. BUT when you think about the fact that eggs on store shelves are 30-45 days old when you purchase them, but you could possibly get 1 day old eggs from a local farmer, fresh takes on a new meaning.
- All Natural – Another labeling term with no real meaning.
- Hormone Free – Just some extra words because it’s illegal to give poultry hormones.
- No Antibiotics Ever – Maybe you think that they’re just giving antibiotics in mass doses to healthy animals, but that’s more uncommon than you think. Most antibiotics are given if an animal is sick or if something happened and they need help preventing them from getting sick.
- Vegetarian Diet – Chickens aren’t vegetarians. They eat worms and bugs and love a good caterpillar. They will also eat their own eggs, cooked eggs, and even cooked chicken.
- Organic – Means that the chickens are fed organic feed, are free range (cage free + outdoor access), no antibiotics, no hormones. For eggs to be labeled “organic”, the USDA regulates this.
So what makes an egg or a dozen of eggs worth the added cost? Are their benefits to a farm egg over a grocery store egg?
The added cost…that’s going to be a personal preference. A month ago I would have doubted my ability to notice the difference. Now I could spot a farm egg over a conventionally raised egg any time. Nutritional differences…some studies say farm eggs are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. Again, eggs on grocery store shelves can be 30-45 days old and farm eggs are generally much fresher.
If you’re local and interested in eggs, let me know!