March 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm
One of the neighbor’s kids stopped by our house last week to purchase what he called “Already Dyed Easter Eggs”. After musing over his question it occurred to me that he was referring to the fact that our chicken eggs are not the typical grocery store white. This led him to believe that they were very special and a thus, a better egg.
I explained to him that the hen decides the color of the egg shell and while some lay white, others lay tan, brown, greenish-blue or speckled eggs. Then he asked why our eggs were so much better than the ones from the store. My response was, “Because we treat the chickens well”. Satisfied with my answers but now thinking that the egg color was dictated by a hen’s personal decision versus a genetic factor, he ran off to convince then to produce a few pink eggs for the Easter Bunny.
For most of us, finding answers to what makes a better egg requires a bit more research. In today’s grocery stores, you’ll find a range of egg options from “Organic” to “Free-Range” to “Cage Free”. But what is the best egg choice for your family and the environment?
My personal preference – beyond raising your own chickens – is to purchase local eggs from small family farms that allow their hens access to the outdoors. You can usually purchase these types of eggs directly from the farmers or at local Farmers Markets.
But if your only choice is purchasing eggs at the grocery store, you’ll encounter numerous cartons covered in statements that can be hard to truly understand. I believe the best eggs really do come from hens that are treated well, so I reference The Humane Society of the United States interpretation of the labels and regulations when I am shopping for eggs. To see the details of all the labels found on egg cartons, I encourage you to read more here. You will be shocked!
In summary, I look for eggs that are “Animal Welfare Approved” or “Food Alliance Certified”. These two organizations insure that the hens are given access to natural environments, good food sources, and the enforce poultry management practices that are the most humane. When you can’t find certified eggs, check with the farmer/supplier to find out more about how the hens are managed. Unfortunately, just relying on labels for Organic, Free-Range, Cage-Free or Natural eggs, don’t necessarily mean that the hens are getting the best treatment possible.
So as you hunt for eggs this year, become familiar with these labels and what they truly mean. You’ll be rewarded not only with tasty eggs, but you’ll also be supporting better management practices and environmental conditions for the hens.
Kate Ruffing transformed her home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, into a “sustainable living lab,” where she explores living an eco-friendly lifestyle that works for her and her family. She shares her sustainable living solutions on her blog Camp 4, and here on Momster.com.