Most people are aware that the eggs which are so healthy for humans come from inhumanly treated chickens. Chickens are stacked in crates which are so small that they cannot even spread their wings, let alone move around. Gradually, the number of people who care about how and where the chickens have been raised, what they have been fed, are increasing.
There are numerous labels on the eggs which might confuse you, and you may end up buying eggs which are produced unethically. Read on to find out what the labels mean, and which types of eggs are healthiest eggs on the market, and which you should avoid.
The ultimate guide to finding healthiest eggs on the market
There are many terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘fresh’ on egg cartons. These and a few other terms are explained below, so that you can understand whether the terms are simply marketing jargon, or you can trust what they say.
This means nothing. All eggs are natural, as they are produced by hens and not by machines. Do not be misled by the ‘natural’ label.
When you read egg label, you might see the sticker ‘Fresh’. This also means nothing. The label was ‘Fresh’ when it was marked, but it does not mean it is fresh when it actually is in your pan. USDA’s grading system marks AA as the freshest, but you will have to calculate the time of packaging and check whether it can still be classified as fresh.
Hormones are not given to hens that lay eggs, so all eggs are hormone free. This is another marketing jargon, as people look for ‘hormone’ free food, so marketers cash in on that fact.
This is a tricky label. Cage free birds are supposed to have ample space to move around freely. But sometimes, cage free hens are kept in huge barns, shoulder to shoulder, and there is not much difference in a cage or cage free in this case. There are, in fact, reports about cannibalism in these situations, as the hens start pecking and eating each other. Definitely not the humane option for the healthiest eggs on the market you are looking for.
So, if you read the label, ‘cage free’ and there is no other information provided, then probably you should stay away from these eggs. If you stop buying eggs which are marked only cage free, then you would be helping to force the farmers to consider humane options of keeping the hens.
If the Certified Humane Free Range standard is met, then the eggs from free range could be the healthiest eggs on the market. Free range hens should have access to at least two feet of space outdoors, but that is the minimum. In certain cases, free range hens do not get these opportunities and hardly any space enough space to walk around.
We should avoid pesticides as much as possible. They can get in our bodies through the eggs, if the hens have been fed grains/cereals, which was grown with pesticides. If the label says, ‘Pesticide free’, then they would be in the category of the healthiest eggs on the market.
Ethical pasture farms allow hens to move around outdoors, in a big amount of space, where they can express the natural traits like scratching the earth and finding food, laying eggs in special nesting areas, and eating a unique blend of cereals, grains and herbs. These farms are closer to the ideal farms which we all have in our minds.
This is an important label to discuss. Eggs should not contain antibiotics, but the label means that the farmer did not use antibiotics in water or food of the hens during their growth, or while the hens lay the eggs. Ingesting antibiotics in any form might make us antibiotic resistant, and the human race might be in danger of being wiped out by deadly bacteria which our bodies cannot fight. This is in the very distant future, but it is a plausible situation. So supporting the farmers who struggle to keep their hens healthy without antibiotics seems the right thing to do.
There is a huge difference between organic and ‘Certified organic’. Just ‘Organic’ without any certification can be just an example of clever greenwashing.
Certified Organic/USDA Organic
The best organic eggs are those that are cage free, pesticide free, antibiotic free laid by hens which are fed organic feed, and having plenty of access to roam around outdoors. The barns must have sunlight and fresh air too. The debate is whether to choose between pasture raised or certified organic eggs. Sometimes, when certified organic eggs are also from pasture raised hens, then these could be the healthiest eggs on the market.
Many people, including yours truly, are confused by ‘white’ and ‘brown’ eggs. There are hens which lay green eggs too (South America). Brown and white shells are basically just the difference in shell color due to the breed of the hen. No one can claim that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs.
Some healthy egg companies you can trust:
The Happy Egg Co.
This is one of the best brands available, and perhaps it has one the healthiest eggs on the market. The Happy Egg’s farms are free range, with the hens getting access to minimum 14 sq feet each. The hens have perching towers, sand pits, clean feeding troughs and water. The eggs are affordable and easily available in grocery stores.
Backyard Eggs raise their hens in pastures of 108 sq ft where the hens feed on worms, bugs, grass and so on.
Vital Farms and Backyard Eggs belong to the same group of companies. The Vital Farms eggs are Certified Organic. Both the farms provide enough information so that you can make a decision.
You have to make the choice of buying cheap eggs, which may come from hens treated inhumanely, or pay a little extra to support farms which are making the effort and sparing no expense to treat their hens in a cruelty free, humane manner. Choosing the latter option will help more humane farms to come up and survive, thus better for you, the environment and the hens.