In today’s day and age we are bombarded with labels like “free-range”, “pastured-raised”, and “hormone-free”. But what do they all mean? Some of the labels are indeed important to take note of, but some of them are pretty useless, sometimes just downright gimmicks. So, it is worth learning a little bit of lingo so that you know what you’re actually buying the next time you go to the store. Here is a quick guide on what these terms mean, and we also help you with a few tips on egg storage.
We’d all like to think that we are buying eggs from happy chickens, but decoding the many different labels found on egg cartons can be a troublesome task. So, let’s take a closer look at what they all mean, and whether you should worry about them or not.
Natural is an overused word in the world of food. It has no legal definition, so if you see this on your egg cartons, then there’s really no guarantee that those eggs are more natural than the cartons next to it.
Farm fresh is another overused term. The term ‘farm fresh’ conjures up images of happy farm animals, and chickens scratching and clucking as they do their merry roundabouts on the farm. But just like ‘natural’, there is no official definition, so it’s simply a marketing ploy to trick you into believing the eggs are somewhat superior to other brands.
You might be excited to see hormone-free or antibiotic-free on your packet of eggs, but this is simply a form of negative marketing. You see, in the US, egg-producing hens are not given antibiotics or hormones, so while some cartons might be labelled as “hormone-free”, it’s likely that all eggs are free from antibiotics and hormones! This would be same as labelling bottled water as “fat-free”: water is naturally fat free! But that doesn’t mean you can use it as a selling point!
Vegetarian-diet is a term that might get you all excited, but this is actually not a good thing. Chickens are omnivorous, meaning they have a plant- AND meat-based diet, so the healthiest chickens are the ones that can feed on bugs and grubs out in the field, instead of being stuck on a grain diet in a small confined space. Have chickens yourself and want to test this? Just throw out a couple of bug larvae and watch them dig their heels in for it!
Now, the terms you should look out for are organic, cage-free, or free-range. Organic eggs are produced by chickens who are fed organic grain and are also able to roam free. While cage-free does sound like a good thing, it’s not always the best. Cage-free simply means that chickens can walk around freely, but often times there are so many animals confined to a small space, that they can’t move around much anyway. Free-range means that the chickens have slightly more space than cage-free, and by law, they must have access to the outdoors.
You might have heard about omega-3 eggs, and if you can get your hands on these eggs, they’re a great choice! Chickens that produce such eggs are fed with a diet high in flaxseeds, which makes them a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
The best way to store eggs
So, you bought your eggs and now you need to store them. You might be tempted to just stick them in the plastic storage container that comes standard with your fridge, but that little carton in which you bought your eggs, is actually the best way to store them! Not only does the cardboard provide cushioning for your eggs, but it also has the best-before date displayed on it, making it easier for you to keep track of the expiry date.
And remember to store your eggs in the middle shelf of your fridge, since this is the coldest place in and will keep your eggs fresher for longer!