Free Range? Pasture Raised? Cage Free?
Y’all have probably all seen the labels in the store and may not know what they actually mean, so we figured we’d make a list of some of the common ones and what they actually mean. Feel free to google any of these for additional confirmation.
- Typical Store-Bought Eggs
- These eggs are usually produced by hens locked in 1ft x 1ft battery cages for their entire life until they’re slaughtered and they eat only feed
- Cage-Free Eggs
- Hens are stuffed into a large barn, and are kept in the barn for their entire life on bedding or concrete and eat only feed
- Free-Range Eggs
- These hens are usually kept in a barn, just like Cage-Free eggs. However, to be called free range there must be at least one 1ft x 1ft opening where all several hundred to several thousand hens could theoretically find their way into the small outside dirt run, and they generally eat mostly feed
- These hens usually have it the best, they generally have access to the outside and have access to dirt and some grass and eat feed mixed with natural goodies
- This just means that all of the feed that the hens eat is produced in an organic matter. It doesn’t have much to do with their environment. So, picture the Cage-Free definition and just replace the feed with organic feed and that’s can be “organic”
Based on these definitions our operations easily fit into the Pasture-Raised category, but most folks aren’t familiar with this term, so we have to include Free-Range in order to give customers an idea of what our production methods are like.
Another common gimmick is “Vegetarian Fed”. Chickens are naturally omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. In order for a chicken to be called “Vegetarian Fed” it MUST be locked up 24/7 to prevent that chicken from naturally preying on bugs and small animals. These chickens eat only feed and do not get to go outside.
Customers often have questions about whether our eggs are fertilized or not, and what that means. We do keep roosters in our flocks as these roosters protect the hens from predators, and give our hens alerts when a predator is close. This means that some of our eggs are indeed fertilized, but fertilized eggs are not chicks, it’s just a dormant mixture that can’t produce a chick unless specific conditions are met.
I use the metaphor of baking bread to explain this.
- An unfertilized egg is like all of the ingredients for a loaf of bread mixed up in a bread pan, but without yeast. This is not bread, it’s just ingredients
- A fertilized egg is like all of the ingredients for a loaf of bread, mixed in a bread pan, including the yeast. If you leave the ingredients in the pan, nothing happens, it’s still just ingredients. If you don’t bake it, it’s nothing but a mixture of flour, water, and yeast. A fertilized egg is the same, the only way the egg can possibly turn into a chick is if the egg is kept at 99.5 degrees for several days in a row.