Been shopping for eggs lately? Cage free, free range, organic, pastured, antibiotic-free, natural, blah blah blah… It’s confusing as heck, right?!
What does any of that stuff even mean and how much of it is real vs b*llsh!t marketing spin?
Recently my wife, Liz, came home from a trip to the store and went on a bit of a rant about eggs. I captured part of it in the video below… but her frustration is the inspiration for this post.
Anyway, that’s what I’m doing here – trying to add some clarity for your next trip to the grocery store.
Here are some of the more common terms you’ll see on egg packaging. These also apply to meat you’ll find in the butcher section:
“Natural” – whenever you see the word “natural” stamped on any food packaging, know that it’s completely marketing. Of course eggs are “natural”… they came from a chicken!
“Fresh” – this only means that it was never frozen. Ever bought a frozen egg? Me neither.
“Cage-free” – just as it sounds, this means the birds are not kept in cages. However, it does not necessarily mean that they have access to the outdoors.
“Free-range” – suggests that the animals had some access to the outdoors, but does not specify for how long or that they ever actually went outside.
“Antibiotic-free” – this is actually pretty important. It means the birds weren’t given unnecessary drugs to fatten them up.
“Hormone-free” – is totally meaningless because it’s illegal to give hormones to poultry.
“Vegetarian” – is a bit deceptive because it sounds healthy. However, chickens aren’t vegetarians – they are supposed to eat protein from insects, worms and bugs.
“Certified Organic” – is about the best you can look for. It means the birds didn’t eat GMO or pesticide laced grain and weren’t given antibiotics or arsenic to promote fast growth.
“Pastured” – is not an official designation, but if accurate, means that the birds were free to roam outdoors on dirt and could eat what they liked. Pastured eggs are generally the most expensive… however they are worth it (in my opinion).
“Episcopalian” – these eggs were laid on a Sunday. KIDDING! This only makes sense with the video below. 😉
If you are buying eggs that don’t have any of this terminology on the packaging, then you really don’t know what you are getting. The animals could be mistreated, pumped full of antibiotics and fed unnatural diets.
So the next time you are in the store picking up some eggs, pay special attention to the packaging and spend the extra few dollars for quality eggs. You will not only be feeding your family much more nutrient-dense, healthy eggs, but you are supporting those who are treating the animals humanely.
Questions, comments? You know where to reach me!
Jeff Spitzer, Nutrition In Focus
Don’t forget to check out Liz’s egg rant!
Some content borrowed from the fantastic book: “FOOD: What the Heck Should I Eat” by Dr Mark Hymen.