Wowow there are a lot of new terms on these egg cartons nowadays, am I right?? Maybe I never thought too much of it? Is it just like all the other marketing of food products- a.k.a. does it matter?!
Short and sweet, it does matter. And it definitely can be confusing. I used to constantly re-check myself, falling for the clever buzzwords painted across the carton and spending more money than necessary.
Here are some of the terms listed on an egg carton and how we can decipher them (in decreasing order of bad claim):
Vegetarian Fed –Yay, plant-based chickens!? Not so much. Chickens are carnivores. We want them to eat the worms and bugs they were designed to eat because this is where they get their protein. There is a history of them being fed animal by-products, which was less than ideal. Instead, they opted for grain products, usually full of corn and soy. We don’t want this.
Natural – oh this word. This means these eggs do not have added colors, dyes, artificial flavors, and are minimally processed. It would be great if this actually happened, but all eggs have none of this. Save your money, don’t pay extra for this phrase.
Cage Free– meaning the chickens did not live in a cage. Likely live in a crowded barn or building with little to no access outdoors. Don’t pay extra for this phrase.
Free Range– by definition, these chickens were allowed access outside but without many other specifications. Realistically, a small door could count as access. Don’t pay extra for this phrase.
Organic – meet the USDA standards meaning the chickens were not given antibiotics, hormones, or other drugs to promote development. They were fed organic grain. They were not fed chicken by-products and had access to the outdoors (free range).
Pasture Raised – usually have much more room to roam. Considered the best choice. They ate what they were meant to, contain more nutrients which means we get the good end of the bargain as well. Though pricier, add these to your non-negotiable foods list and adjust accordingly. If unable, I would personally skip conventionally raised, “natural” eggs altogether.