1. Pastured, free-range, vegetarian-fed, commercial eggs – what’s the difference?
This is probably the most elementary knowledge we’ll talk about here, but it’s important to get it out of the way first (if you already know, skip down to number 2).
Pastured chickens are chickens that are allowed to roam around, hunting and pecking through the ground for grass and bugs. They’ll often be fed supplemental feed, but often they won’t even want it, as they’ve gotten all the nutrition they need from eating the things chickens were designed to eat. Pastured eggs are definitely the gold standard of eggs, and it’s often hard to find them unless you know a person/farmer who keeps their own chickens.
Free-range eggs, which you’ve seen in the store, I’m sure, are from chickens who are allowed “some form of outdoor access.” This amount of outdoor access is nebulous, and just because your eggs say “free-range” doesn’t mean the chickens spend their lives running around a happy farm. To be sure, free range would be a better choice than commercial eggs, but just know that free range doesn’t mean all that much right now.
Vegetarian fed (or organic), which your free-range eggs will also often say on the carton, simply means that the chickens weren’t fed animal protein. Unfortunately, this means they also weren’t allowed to run around eating bugs. Again, vegetarian fed (or organic) is better than commercial eggs, as we at least know the hens weren’t fed scraps of dead chickens or other animals, but the chickens still weren’t happily hunting and pecking in the open air, as they crave doing.
Commercial eggs, or CAFO eggs, are the inexpensive eggs you’ll find in every supermarket. I’m sure you’ve seen these feeding/laying operations in “shock” videos. If you haven’t seen the way these poor chickens are inhumanely treated, I recommend watching Food, Inc. Continue reading…