The chicken and the egg!

A friend on Facebook posted the link to this, and I thought it was a great article to pass along to all of you. Once more the message becomes…eat local, buy local! Get to know your farmers and become their best customers.

Confused About the Chicken and the Egg?

If you’ve ever seen a documentary that reveals how animals live in confined spaces you, will likely want to make different decisions  when it comes to choosing your meats. Here’s a little clarification about the terms used to define the chicken and the egg.

The folks at The Lexicon of Sustainability described it perfectly. You can check out their video here. Here is a description of the various “categories” of eggs and what they mean.

Cage free  Hens raised in factory farms that live in cage-free systems offer hens areas where they can walk, spread their wings, and are allowed perching areas and nest boxes.

Pros: These hens are able to continue some of their natural practices-walking, spreading wings, laying eggs in a nest. Cons: The label is misleading, as one would believe these chickens are allowed to live in their natural environment of the outdoors. These hens often live indoors in very large flocks with as many as 20,000 hens. They live in crowded spaces and may or may not be allowed to go outside. They are usually debeaked affecting their ability to eat.


Free range  Free range hens are factory farmed. The hens raised for meat production are not raised in cages but are permitted to roam freely within the confines of the facility. They must have government certified access to the outdoors. There is no legal definition for free-range chicken eggs.

Pros: These hens are able to continue some of their natural practices-walking, spreading wings, laying eggs in a nest. They also have the potential to be able to go outside in the sunlight. Cons: The label is misleading, as one would believe that free-range chickens are allowed to roam in a natural pasture. There is no requirement for the size of their outdoor access, the length of time the access is available, or the quality of the outdoor environment (it could be concrete or dirt). They may or may not be able to get to the outdoor space. Their living space is approximately 1 square foot. These chickens also are debeaked to prevent the chickens from harming each other.


Organic  These birds are factory farmed. They can be kept in any type of caging system but must eat USDA organic feed. In addition they do not receive any types of antibiotics and only receive vaccinations to prevent common diseases. The grains for their feed must be produced in organic practices, meaning the land must be chemical pesticide and fertilizer free for at least three years and genetically modified crops are not permitted.

Pros:  The feed has not been genetically modified, which can potentially prevent disease in the animals. Cons: These chickens are not necessarily allowed to consume the natural feed of bugs, grubs, and worms. Also their living quarters are tight with the chickens in very cramped spaces.


Vegetarian fed  These birds are factory farmed. Hens are fed a vegetarian diet, free of any meat or fish by-products. These hens are kept indoors and not allowed to peck typical grubs and worms.

Pros: It ensures that deceased chickens or their parts are not re-fed back to the other chickens in the farm. Cons: Chickens naturally eat bugs, grubs, and worms. This type of chicken prevents the full nutrient profile of the chicken or the eggs it produces.


Pastured  The term that describes chickens raised on grass pasture for all of their lives, except for the initial brooding period.

The yolk on the left is from a conventional egg, the one on the right is from a pastured hen.

eggs from different chickens

Pros: The eggs have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and E. The chicken meat provides a varied nutrient profile. Cons: This type of system requires large areas of pasture which can be difficult to manage.


Pasteurized eggs  The pasteurizing of eggs is done by varying methods. It is done to kill or slows the growth of microorganisms as eggs are considered by the FDA “a potentially hazardous food.” These can be done for shell eggs or egg whites packaged and used in cooking.

Pros: It may prevent illness for those who are immune compromised, such as young children, the elderly, and people who have immune-compromising illnesses. These eggs have less microbes and can be consumed not cooked or lightly cooked. Cons: The pasteurization kills the natural microbes in the egg which can be beneficial to the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract.


Natural  This label claim has no relevance.

If you really want to choose the best chicken and eggs, look for farm fresh, pastured eggs. They have a beautifully golden yolk and a great amount of nutrition to boot!




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