Eggs EXPOSED: The difference between pasture raised, free-range and cage free
(NaturalHealth365) Which came first, the chicken or the egg? These days, this age-old question actually seems a lot less confusing than understanding the difference between “pasture raised,” “free-range,” and “cage-free.”
You know, those buzz words printed all over the egg cartons – at your local grocery store.
Which one is best? What’s the difference? One thing is true: those ‘healthier’ varieties are more expensive than the conventionally-raised eggs. But, the question remains: are they really worth the extra cash?
Comparing pasture raised eggs to conventional brands
Conventionally-raised eggs come from chickens that are force-fed a garbage diet and kept in unbelievably inhumane conditions. Leaving alone the ethical implications, you’re still stuck with sub-par eggs – that are riddled with chemicals and contain a measly 30 to 80 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.
Truth is, it is worth the few extra dollars for a higher quality egg. But which one should you buy?
Generally speaking, buying “certified organic” eggs is a good choice, since you know you’ll be avoiding synthetic hormones, GMOs, and antibiotics. But, “certified organic” only means that the animals are fed organic foods (like corn, grains and soy) – not foods that they would naturally eat in the wild.
Why does this matter? Because chickens eating “organic” grains don’t produce a desirable amount of essential omega 3 fatty acids in their eggs. Omega 3 fatty acids – including DHA and EPA – are extremely heart healthy and can boost many other aspects of your health.
The best quality egg that money can buy…
Now, if you want to make sure your eggs are as high quality as possible, go for pasture-raised.
Other than raising your own chickens, buying eggs labeled as “pasture-raised” ensures you’re getting the healthiest eggs possible. These eggs come from chickens who have been allowed to roam outside freely (getting at least 108 square feet each) and consume grass, bugs, worms and anything else they can forage – things they eat naturally.
They still may be given some feed, but it’ll be high quality and a smaller proportion of their diet.
Remember how paltry the omega 3 content is of conventional eggs? Well, pasture-raised eggs have been shown to contain double the amount of omega 3 fatty acids, triple the amount of vitamin D, 4 times the amount of Vitamin E, and 7 times the amount of beta-carotene compared to farm factory eggs.
If that’s not a good return on investment, we don’t know what is!
The next best thing to pasture-raised eggs
If you can’t find pasture-raised and certified humane eggs, going organic is your next best bet – yes, even over “free range.”
In general, free range chickens have more space than caged and cage-free animals, but still are given less than about 2 square feet per hen. Plus, they don’t get outdoors as often as the name would imply – and some are still fed an unnatural diet heavy in corn or soy.
If you can, it’s also great to buy eggs labeled as Certified Humane Raised and Handled®. This label ensures that the eggs come from chickens reared from farmers following a set of Animal Care Standards.
And above everything else, avoid “cage-free.”
Why “cage-free” eggs are a BAD joke
As far as we’re concerned, “cage-free” is a pretty much worthless. Honestly, it’s more of a marketing loophole than a meaningful denotation.
In fact, “cage-free” just means that chickens have a small door in a barn that they could conceivably use to get outside – but, they still may be crammed into a building with thousands of other chickens and rarely if ever leave!
We’re not saying all cage-free eggs are “bad,” but because there’s really no way to tell which companies actually allow their chickens outside and which don’t, we advise staying away from them so you don’t end up wasting your money.
Editor’s note: Personally, I always look for pasture-raised and certified organic eggs. This company is just one example and, no, I am not compensated – in any way – for making this suggestion.
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