“Cage-Free” means that chickens are not kept in battery cages, however the living conditions are extremely poor as they are packed into multi-level aviaries. The chickens will likely never step foot outdoors.
“Free-Range” is a term regulated by the USDA, and it means that hens must be given continuous access to the outdoors (about 2 square feet per hen) during their production cycle. Although they have more space than “caged” and “cage-free” hens, this does not guarantee that a hen ever actually stepped foot outside, it just means there was a way for them to do so. This term also makes no guarantees about the diet of the hens, so they very likely are eating a corn and/or soy-based feed.
“Organic” eggs come from uncaged hens that have access to the outdoors. Again, having access does not necessarily mean that the birds are actually roaming outdoors and consuming a diet of grass and bugs. (They may simply have access to an enclosed porch or a small patch of grass.) However, this designation guarantees that the birds were fed organic feed.
“Pasture-Raised” birds spend most of their life outdoors, with a fair amount of space (some regulations mandate up to 108 square feet per bird) plus access to a barn. Many are able to eat a diet of worms, insects and grass, along with feed (which may or may not be organic). Unfortunately, Pasture-Raised is not a term regulated by the USDA, so the best way to trust this label is to investigate the source – which is easier to do when you buy from local farmers.
Read about our local egg suppliers that we trust here.