What’s the difference between “cage-free,” “free-range,” and “pasture-raised” eggs?

Whenever you buy eggs from the grocery store, you may have wondered why they have different labels, such as “cage-free,” “free-range,” and “pasture-raised.” You may have also noticed that they differ in price. Eggs vary in their nutrition profile as well. But one thing’s for sure – the more expensive the egg is, the healthier it is.

Out of the three, pasture-raised eggs are the best. Aside from raising your own chickens, buying eggs labeled as “pasture-raised” ensures that you are getting the healthiest eggs possible. Pasture-raised eggs contain twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, triple the amount of vitamin D, four times the amount of vitamin E, and seven times the amount of beta-carotene compared with conventionally raised eggs.

These eggs come from chickens that are allowed to roam outside freely and eat bugs, grass, worms, and anything else they can eat naturally. They may still be given some feed, but it will be high-quality and only a small portion of their overall diet.

If you can’t find pasture-raised eggs and certified humane eggs, go organic. These eggs come from chickens that are fed organic foods, such as grains and soy, but not foods that they would naturally eat in the wild. You may also choose eggs labeled as “Certified Humane Raised and Handled.” This means that these eggs came from chickens reared by farmers who follow a set of animal care standards.

If you can’t find organic, opt for free-range eggs. Free-range chickens have more space than caged and cage-free ones, but have less than two square feet per hen. They also don’t go outdoors, and some are fed with an unnatural diet which tends to be heavy in (GMO) soy.

The type of eggs that may not be worth your money are cage-free eggs. “Cage-free” means that the chickens have a small door in a barn that they could use to go outside. However, they may still be crammed into a building with hundreds of other chickens. Although not all cage-free eggs are bad, it is difficult to distinguish which companies actually let their chickens outside and which don’t. For this reason, it’s best to avoid them completely.

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