Regardless of which came first—the chicken or the egg—you can bet the first one was organic, raised outdoors, without added drugs or chemicals. As more and more people discover the health and environmental benefits of organic food, industrial poultry and egg production is no longer popular due to the heavy use of chemicals, drugs, and factory farm environments.
Organic eggs, like traditional eggs, are described by weight in accordance with the standards of the United States Department of Agriculture. The six weight classes are: Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small and Peewee.
In addition to weight, the USDA has also established quality grading standards for eggs. These standards measure the appearance and quality of the eggshell, as well as the quality of the yolk and egg white or egg white. Based on the lowest scoring factor, the egg is rated AA, A, or B. Therefore, if the shell is B, even an egg with AA yolk and white will be rated B.
Get the Facts on Organic and Free-Range Eggs
According to the American Egg Board, Organic Eggs are defined as:
- Eggs laid by cage-free, free-roaming hens that are raised on certified organic feed and can be used outdoors.
- Only feed the hens without synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers
- The agricultural ingredients of the feed must be 100% certified organic. Antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited (although these are not found in any shelled eggs).
How to Buy Free Range Eggs？
Like many things in life, buying a simple box of eggs becomes more complicated. Here is how to understand the meaning of all these words on the carton so that you can decide which is important.
Organic: Organic eggs are certified to be produced by cage-free or free-range hens raised on organic feed and allowed to enter the outdoors. However, a recent report from the Cornucopia Institute indicates that many larger producers do not always comply with these requirements for organic eggs (especially outdoor passages). Most small farmers were found to comply with the regulations.
No cage: means that hens can roam around buildings, rooms, or open areas instead of battery cages. This is a 16x20 inch cage that can hold up to 11 birds. This does not necessarily mean that the hen can enter the outdoors. It also does not indicate how much space they have.
Free range: Eggs marked as free range are laid by hens that can go outdoors. This may simply mean that the hens have an indoor space connected to the outdoor area, rather than they wander around "freely". In addition to eating grains, these hens can also forage wild plants and insects.
Egg color: Determined by the breed of the hen. They can be beautiful, but have no inherent nutritional or taste differences.
Grade: Refers to the quality of eggs. Most consumers will not notice much difference between grades. You will most likely see A grade, which means that the shells are not stained, the yolks are not defective, and they have a "reasonably" clear and thick white color.
Size: Refers to the weight of each dozen eggs. (EatingWell almost always requires large eggs in recipes.)
Date: Most egg cartons are printed with "Sale Date" or "Packing Date" at the end. Eggs stored in a refrigerator carton should be safe to eat within four to five weeks after packaging, and within a few weeks after the "sale" date.
Pasteurization: If you want to eat raw, pasteurized eggs are a wise choice. They are heated in their shells to a temperature high enough to kill pathogens such as Salmonella.
Hormone-free: This label is affixed to many cartons, but the laying hens are not injected with hormones.
Vegetarian feeding: The eggs come from hens fed on a vegetarian diet. This is a controversial practice because chickens are not born vegan.
Eggs rich in omega-3: lay by hens fed a special diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs provide a range of omega-3s, ranging from 100 mg to 600 mg. In contrast, 3 ounces of salmon contains approximately 1,200 mg of omega-3.
No antibiotics added is also written as "no antibiotics used". This means that no antibiotics are used in the hen's feed or water.
Ranch raising: This term is not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. It is generally understood that eggs are laid by hens roaming and foraging on maintained pastures. If you can, please directly ask the farmer to determine the meaning of the label.
Animal welfare certification label: They all prohibit forced molting through starvation, which is used to temporarily increase egg production and quality. But the "Animal Welfare Approval" program is the only program that prohibits beak cutting, which is a common practice to ensure that birds do not peck at each other. The label also ensures that the hens can continue to be outdoors, and can build nests, roost and wash dust. The standards for other procedures vary.