Everyone hopes that the animals they are about to eat were, at one time, happy and ethically-raised in a bucolic green field somewhere, with plenty of room to roam free. When we read the labels that come along with animal produce—natural, organic, cage-free—we feel good about our purchase. We have an image in our mind and then read labels to support our buying choices, but do we really know what those feel-good terms actually mean? Before you delve into the world of food labels across the entire plethora of raw, non-vegetarian items, let’s get you started with the simplest variety—eggs. Here’s a handy glossary of terms that’ll help you read the fine print better the next time you decide on omelettes or an egg salad sandwich for breakfast.
Cage-free hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests which are natural behaviours denied to hens confined in cages. Most cage-free hens live in very large flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens who never go outside. Not that great but surely better than being in a cage. But they still can suffer from beak cutting, notes The Humane Society International.
Free-range or free-roaming
They enjoy all of the aforementioned, but also have the added luxury of outdoor access. This is the only difference between the two.
Eggs that are attributed with label come from hens that enjoy the same conditions as free-range and or free-roaming varieties.
The best labels you look out for are products labelled pasture raised and humane, though it’s not regulated. For a Certified Humane certification, it means that the animal treatment meets an 108-square-feet per bird criteria which is the same standard adopted by Animal Welfare Approved. It mirrors the mandate used in Europe, which was established by the British Soil Society in 1946.
This means the chicken farm operates under the pasture-raised conditions, but farmers can’t have a flock of more than 500 birds. It is also important to note that vegetarian-fed, natural and Omega 3 have nothing to do with animal welfare. Here’s a few of the egg purveyors that have been supporting the free-range method of farming.