What Does Free Range Eggs Mean?

At Buffalo Market, we’re invested in building relationships with local farmer and producers, and in thinking that there’s a better way to do food. We focus on organic and heritage where possible, bringing you only the best. Yet with some products, what’s “best”, or even what “organic” means, is often not clear – eggs are one example. Wander down the supermarket aisle, and you’ll encounter a huge range of descriptors and quantifiers applied to eggs, and the hens they came from. And, crucially, not all are what they seem. Here’s what to look out for, and what “free range” really means. 

Cage Free

A term regulated by the USDA, “cage free” is self-explanatory – it means eggs from hens that are not confined to a cage. They can “freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle, but [do] not have access to the outdoors.” T’s certainly an improvement on battery farming, but there are downsides too – air quality can be lower in such facilities, and the hens’ welfare is not as prioritised as it could be.

Organic

Be wary of eggs that are branded simply “organic”. Legally, the only stipulation is that they must come from hens that are fed an organic diet, with things like the amount of space per hen and access to the outdoors are neither specified or required. Many organic eggs are also at least free-range, although do check the label – unscrupulous producers often try to take advantage of customer trust in the term.

Free Range

Again, another label that cannot be taken at face value. Free-range another term regulated by the USDA means that the eggs come from hens that have some kind of access to the outdoors. However, that doesn’t mean the hens actually go outdoors, or that the space is more than a small, fenced area. It merely implies that a door exists that the farmer could, at some point, open.

Pasture-Raised

This label is becoming more and more common, and should mean that the hens have a lovely big field to wander in, as well as an indoor space, and eat as naturally as possible. These eggs are healthier too - researchers have found that one pasture-raised egg contains twice as much omega-3 fat, three times more vitamin D, four times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene than eggs from hens raised on traditional feed. From an agricultural standpoint, pasture-raised eggs are often superior too.

Animal Welfare Approved 

If you’re after the most natural way to rear and look after hens, this is it. Certified Animal Welfare Approved is the only label that guarantees animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range for their entire lives on an independent farm using truly sustainable, high-welfare farming practices (It’s also the only label in the U.S. to require audited, high-welfare production, transport and slaughter practices). The standards were developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers and farmers, and are available online – it’s extremely transparent. And, we think, you can taste the difference – AWA eggs are truly delicious.

Eggs are a simple, nutritious addition to any diet, and extremely easy to cook too. We’ve got a great range of organic, free range, and heritage eggs, and are constantly on the lookout for more great producers. Why not stick some in your cart today, and see for yourself?


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