What to Know and What You Can
Forget About Buying Humane Eggs
Cage-free. Organic. Range-fed. Humane. We know the terms, and we
see them on the labels of the egg cartons at the store. But can
we trust them? And just what do they mean?
Luckily, there are two tips you can take to reduce your stress
around which eggs are best for the environment, the chickens,
First, we have to erase any trust we put into pictures of happy
chickens and the meaningless terms like cage-free or organic scrawled
on the cartons. These terms are too broad to trust at face value.
When we read "cage-free" that might mean that the chickens
are packed into one large hen-house and while not technically
in cages, they aren't exactly living in humane, comfortable conditions.
And when we read "organic," we can't be completely sure
if that means the hens are raised without antibiotics, or if they
were fed organic feed, or what.
So erase those, and keep your eye out for another label altogether,
one that we can put just a touch more trust into.
The One Type of Label You Need to Know
When it comes to which designations to keep an eye out for, Ellen
in "Cracking The Egg Label Code", "If you want
to take a step back to the pure, bucolic life an egg evokes, the
World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA) asks you to make
a modest new year's resolutionswitch from commercially raised
eggs to buying those labeled "Certified Humane," "American
Humane Certified," or "Animal Welfare Approved."
This means your eggs came from chickens raised with care, not
confined to battery cages and stuffed with weird growth hormones
or antibiotics. And these three designations are verified and
monitored by animal rights organizations. In other words, they
have some oomph behind them, unlike popular claims like "cage-free,"
which does not."
We learned last year that most
cage-free eggs come from producers who are certified humane.
Nearly two-thirds, but not all. That's why we have to look for
the label of the organizations that do the certifying, and not
just the "cage free" wording.
Avoid Grocery Labels Altogether--Head to Farmers' Market!
One common argument against even these labels is that the certifying
organizations are not strict enough. It's understandable considering
"humane" is a fairly subjective topic. What methods
might work best for churning out a quantity of eggs from the "humane"
chicken farm might still not seem so humane to consumers with
a conscience. So another option is to leave the grocery store
It might be expensive, but so very worth it to head down to farmers'
market to get your eggs. Here's how Gregory Schaefer, our Organic
A-Z chef describes
his first experience buying fresh eggs from local farmers:
Conventional eggs have so many different labels on them, I
can't keep track and I'm never really sure if those birds are
free range or humanely raised or what.
One day it occurred to me, THEY SELL EGGS AT THE FARMER'S MARKET...the
only place I feel really comfortable buying chickens from. Now
that I've gone down that path, I'll never go back. The taste
alone blew my palate and my mind!
I was shocked, totally, full on, flat out, caught with my pants
down, surprised and amazed when I tasted my first farmer's market
egg. It was like a whole new food.
WATCH VIDEO: "Why Organic Chicken?"
When it comes to good food, it's about quality, not quantity.
When what we're eating tastes incredibly good, we are satisfied
with less of it. So while you might be spending $5 to $6 for a
dozen eggs, the environmental impact of fewer food miles and healthier
ecosystems, the economic impact of helping your community members
and participating in the local economy, and the impact on your
gastronomical delight will all be well worth it.
February 4, 2010