What Eggs-actly Does That Label Mean?

In honor of Easter here’s the low down on some common egg labels! I know the available options can seem endless, so lets clear up some of the confusion...

The Basics

  • Brown vs white: This refers to the color of the shell, which has nothing to do with the nutritional value of the egg. Simply put, hens with white feathers and white ear lobes lay white eggs and hens with red feathers and red ear lobes lay brown eggs.

  • Conventional: You won’t see the word conventional on the carton, but these eggs were produced under standard growing conditions where the eggs were laid by hens in enclosures that also serve as nesting space.

  • Sell-by date: This date is included on cartons to ensure eggs don’t stay on the shelves past a certain date. Remember, the eggs are safe to eat for two to three weeks beyond this date. Additionally, most eggs leave the farm within 24 to 36 hours after being laid.

COMMON LABELS

  • Cage-free: These eggs were laid by hens that are free to roam around a building, room, or open area that includes nesting spaces and perches.

  • Free-range: Eggs are laid by hens with access to the outdoors. The hens are fed grains and may also forage for wild plants and insects.

  • Certified organic: Eggs are laid by cage-free or free-range hens raised on certified organic feed along with access to wild plants and insects. These farms are certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

  • Pasteurized: These eggs were heated to a temperature just below coagulation to destroy harmful pathogens.

SPECIAL LABELS

  • Pasture-raised: While not a label recognized by the USDA, these eggs are laid by hens who roam and forage on a maintained pasture area.

  • Enriched colony: Eggs are laid by hens in enclosures that include perch space, dust bathing, scratch areas and nesting space.

  • Omega-3 enriched: The hens that lay these eggs are fed a special diet rich in omega-3 fats. These eggs provide from 100 mg to more than 600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per egg.

  • Vegetarian-fed: These hens were fed a vegetarian diet.

  • Non-GMO: While this label may appear on egg cartons, the USDA has declared that eggs in their shells are not a genetically modified food. Additional research has confirmed that none of the genetically modified materials that may appear in hen's feed are passed into the egg.

  • No antibiotics: Antibiotics are not used on a continuous basis in the egg industry. In general, all eggs are considered antibiotic-free. When antibiotics are used to treat sickness in hens (by FDA guidelines), hens rarely produce eggs or their egg production is severely decreased.

  • No added hormones: All eggs produced in the United States are "all-natural," as no hormones are ever given to egg-laying hens.

>> Whichever you opt to buy - eggs are a great source of protein that’s easy for our bodies to digest. Eggs make a great snack or meal at anytime of day! Personally, I like to keep a quiche on hand for when I need a quick meal.

Go head and throw an egg on it ;)

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