Are you SURE you know everything you need to know?
It wasn't that long ago that we didn't have as many options. Maybe there were brown eggs. Maybe a different brand. But now we have free range, cage-free ... all sorts of of labels. All sorts of options.
Which ones actually make a difference?
Here are some of the most common terms you'll find on eggs at your local grocery store:
Produced without antibiotics: This term can be misleading, as eggs produced in the U.S. are generally antibiotic-free. Antibiotics are not used on a continuous basis in the egg industry, and though antibiotics may be used for hen health, antibiotic residue is not present in eggs.
Brown eggs: Eggs that are laid by chickens with red feathers and red ear lobes. The nutrient content, quality and flavor of brown eggs is the same as white eggs.
Cage-free: Eggs laid by hens at indoor floor operations. The hens may roam in a building, room or open area, usually in a barn or poultry house, that include nest space, perches and unlimited access to fresh food and water.
Cage-free systems vary and include barn-raised and free-range hens, both of which have shelter that helps protect against predators and bad weather. Both types are produced under common handling and care practices. Depending on the farm, these housing systems may or may not have an automated egg collection system.
Free-range eggs: Eggs produced by hens that have access to the outdoors in accordance with weather, environment or state laws. The birds have continuous access to fresh food and water and may forage for wild plants and insects. They are also provided floor space, nesting space and perches.
Natural: USDA identifies all shell eggs as natural.
Nutrient-enhanced eggs: Eggs that are produced by hens fed a special diet that may include things like flax seed, marine algae or fish oils.
Certified organic eggs: Eggs that are laid by cage-free, free-roaming hens raised on certified organic feed with access to the outdoors. The hens’ feed is grown without most synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers, and 100 percent of the agricultural ingredients must be certified organic. Antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited (although these will not be found in any shell eggs).
Pasteurized eggs: Eggs heated to temperatures just below the coagulation point to destroy pathogens. Pasteurized eggs have the same nutritional and protein content as conventional eggs. These eggs are recommended for recipes that call for raw eggs or for people susceptible to illness who prefer runny eggs. Pasteurized eggs must be kept refrigerated.
Pasture raised eggs: Pasture raised eggs originate from hens free to roam and forage on a maintained pasture area. The hens are moved to various pasture areas to maintain a constant supply of vegetation for the hens.
Vegetarian fed eggs: Produced by hens fed a vegetarian diet.
Here's a handy infographic with eggs-ceptional information about eggs. Double-click the image to see it full-size in a browser window or right-click and save, if you want to print it full size.
Infographic and information courtesy of The Egg Nutrition Center and Colorado Egg Producers. This is not a paid or sponsored post; I saw the graphic in a newsletter and asked for permission to use it.