Are Pasture-Raised Eggs Better Than Cage-Free?

Chickens Feeding in a Pasture

Today's marketers are a savvy bunch, and they know how to create buzzwords that consumers want to hear. Unfortunately, their terminology is often misleading at best and inaccurate at worst. The next time you're out buying eggs for your Sunday omelet or veggie quiche, pay special attention to the terms printed on the cartons.

Cage-Free Eggs

Cage-free eggs may elicit thoughts of chickens running free across a farm and living a happy, healthy life. This is generally not the case. For many of America's egg farmers, the term "cage free" simply means that the chickens aren't raised in individual crates or cases. They are free to roam, but the area they live in is often very small, extremely dirty and overcrowded to the point where many of the chickens can barely move.

Free-range hens are very similar in many cases. Hens may have access to a door to a very small outside pen, but they may not even know the door exists or they might not be able to maneuver themselves over to it. Since the FDA doesn't regulate the conditions of the outside pen nor the amount of time the hens must spend in it every day, it's possible that the hens spends minutes in deplorable outdoor conditions each day.

How does this impact the eggs the hens lay? Since the hens are not outdoors eating a natural diet, they're probably given feed made from soy and corn laced with synthetic additives or "vegetarian" GMO feed. If the food they eat is substandard, the eggs they produce will be as well.

Pasture-Raised Eggs

The term pasture-raised chickens lets you know that the chickens that laid the eggs were give a minimum of 108 square feet of outdoor space to forage for their food. Chickens like to feed on insects, worms, plants and seeds, and when they're given the chance to freely roam outdoors and eat the foods they're intended to, they'll produce eggs that are high-quality and healthier for you.

If you feel uneasy buying eggs from large branded facilities, look for local farmers who let their chickens forage freely every day. You'll wind up with eggs that are fresher, healthier and better-tasting.


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