Eggs are a staple food in my house. We eat eggs often for breakfast because they are a nutrient dense food, high in protein and “good” fat. I also use them for baking or in dinner recipes.
So it’s really important that I not only keep eggs well stocked in my fridge but also that I buy really quality eggs from healthy and humanely raised chickens.
Buying eggs from the store (especially these days with all the food shortages) can be tricky. There are free-range, organic, white, brown, cage-free, pasteurized, hormone free, etc…. etc…
How in the world do you know if you are truly getting the eggs you want? What are the right eggs? Why does it even matter?
In this post, I will explain the different labels on eggs and what those labels really mean in order to help you make the right decision and learn more about how to buy eggs.
White or Brown Eggs?
I was raised on white eggs and I maybe even felt a little weird about eating brown eggs. But then as an adult, trying to eat healthy, I thought brown eggs were superior and that white eggs were not that healthy. This may or may not be the case but the quality of the egg doesn’t actually correlate to the color of the eggshell.
A healthy and nutritious egg is dependent on the overall health of the chicken, what it is eating and it’s lifestyle. Is it in a tight cage and sunless barn living with tons of other chickens or does it have access to pasture and sunlight? How much stress does it go through and other such things.
How Does An Egg Get Its Color
Did you know that all egg shells start out white? The color of the egg is dependent on the breed of the chicken. Near the end of the formation of the egg shell (a process that usually takes about 20 hours), the hen will release pigment that gives an egg its color.
There are two main types of pigments, protoporphyrin and biliverdin. Depending on the breed of the chicken and its genetics, the eggs can become brown, blue, green, white or any shade in between (including speckled eggs).
Different Breeds Of Chickens And Egg Color
The Leghorn chicken is a breed of that lays white eggs and were historically used in chicken egg production because they lay an average of 280-300 eggs per year, while other breeds lay around 250 eggs average. This may be why white eggs were more commonly seen in markets.
There are many other breeds of chickens that are white egg layers. A few well-known breeds include Ancona, Andalusian and California White.
The most common brown egg laying breeds are Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Australorp and Barnevelde. However, there are quite a few more breeds that lay brown eggs.
Blue and green eggs come from some of the following breeds: Ameraucana, Easter Egger, Cream Legbar and Olive Egger.
Now for the quiz!!! Just kiddin’!
Just keep in mind there are hundreds of different chicken breeds; that is for another website!!
What Do The Labels Really Mean?
So you are in the grocery store and faced with all kinds of cool marketing and catchy labels. But what does it all mean? Let’s take a close look at what each label tells us .
Deciphering The Code
Cage-free sounds nice right? Who wants to be caged up? But the truth of the matter is that cage-free merely means the chickens aren’t confined in a cage.
However, they are still crammed with hundreds of other chickens, a stressful and messy situation that doesn’t lend itself to a healthy scenario for a chicken. The chickens are often fighting over pecking order and living in terribly unhygienic conditions. It can look much like this photo.
Free-Range is a little better than cage-free. It doesn’t mean the chickens are roaming in beautiful fields of plants and grubs that they would naturally feed on. Free-range is an attractive way of saying a chicken has access to the outdoors. But in reality there is currently no regulation of saying how much outdoor time the chicken gets or if they even do. It just means the door might be open for them…sometimes.
Well saying eggs are from hormone free chickens is true but it’s nothing to brag about because giving chickens hormones has already been banned by the FDA. So really it just means the chickens aren’t given illegal hormones. Let’s hope this is true!
A healthy chicken that loves to roam out doors is constantly grubbin’. Literally! Chicken love eating bugs and worms (not just plants) and this makes for very healthy eggs as well. So saying a chicken is fed on a vegetarian diet isn’t really a good thing.
Organic eggs means the chickens were fed on an organic diet, but there is nothing saying where the chicken lives. Therefore, it can be living in a crowded, indoor and stressful situation and still produce organic eggs. You just don’t know.
When eggs are pasture raised with an added label that says either “certified humane” or “animal welfare approved”, it means that each chicken is give 108 square feet of outdoor space and indoor barn space.
This is going to make a chicken very happy and give it the life that is closest to its natural living condition. Now their eggs are going to taste great!
Getting to know your local farmers or going to farmers markets it is a great way to support local and get the freshest food possible. Nothing beats the relationship you can build with your local farmers. It is really lovely to know exactly where your food is coming from and having a farm you can visit to see for yourself how the chickens (and other animals) are raised, fed and taken care of.
I guess this is the ultimate way to get fresh eggs where you are in total control of the lives of your chickens and what they are fed. If you have the space for a few chickens, it is a very rewarding and fun adventure. Not to mention how freeing it is to know you have some food independence!
Eggs are a nutrient dense, amazing food and it’s beneficial to know what you are getting when you buy them at a grocery store.
To wrap it up:
- The color of the egg has to do with the breed of the chicken. It is not an indicator of the nutritional value of the egg.
- Buying eggs can be tricky unless you have an understanding of what the labels really mean.
- If you can, meet your local farmers, join a food share or get your own backyard chickens.
That’s all for now! Let me know what you think or if you have any questions in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Allie, In The Kitchen With Me
6 thoughts on “How To Buy Eggs – What Do Those Labels Mean!”
Thank you. This is helpful as we try to break the “codes” that they put out there for consumers!
Your welcome! Yes, they don’t make it very transparent as to what you are buying these days.
I really learned a lot from your blog on eggs Allie. Very interesting.. makes me want my own chickens! Poor chickens!!!
Yes, it’s hard to keep up with all the labels! I’m glad you found it helpful.
Good information on this blog Allie. Wonder how we can find local farmers selling eggs?
There are a couple ways to find local eggs. One would be at your farmer’s market. Usually there are egg sellers there. You can also look for local egg stands. I’m not sure about your town but in our town there are many private individuals who put eggs out for sale in front of their houses. You can also ask around to friends and neighbors if they know of anyone selling eggs as there are many people raising backyard chickens! Lastly, you can search local farmers on the internet. Good luck!