Eggs - Clearing the Confusion
Cage-free, free-range, humane, organic - why are there so MANY egg options? What do they mean and what's the best to buy? It mostly comes down to what your personal preference, but the differences are explained below..
Cage-free: Means the hens are uncaged inside barns, but don't necessarily have outdoor access and so they may still be kept in small/close quarters. There are no regulations on food or living conditions.
Free-range or free-roaming: Means that the birds have access to the outdoors, however, there are no requirements for the space provided, how much time they spend outside or what they are fed.
Certified humane: Means that the farm has undergone a third-party inspection to ensure that the birds have clean food and water, are uncaged and can move around freely. These hens are also not given hormones or antibiotics (unless they fall ill), although the feed is not necessarily organic.
USDA Organic: Means the hens are fed an organic, vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides. The birds are not caged and may have access to the outdoors, however, there is no requirement for how much time is spent outside or the quality of the outdoor environment.
So does that help at all? If you're like me, not really. I think it is worth the time and perhaps the extra investment to locate someone local who raises their birds similar to the "certified humane" criteria. A farmer's market or just asking your friends for a reference is a great way to locate these individuals!