How to read Egg Labels (Canadian Version)
A staple food in so many households but with a mysterious past. A dark crammed dungeon or open sunny rolling meadows? The convenience of being able to buy them at any time of day in the grocery store with labels using so many different buzzwords it can be hard to tell where my eggs come from? Today we’re breaking down how to understand egg labels so you can pick the type that is best for your body and budget. . You might be surprised to learn how the quality of life of the chicken lived can impact the nutritional value of the egg! We found in Canada that there are 8 common different ways eggs are produced.
First, we have conventional caged eggs. These eggs will likely not say they are from cages, but are likely to be the most inexpensive option at the store. Often the chickens are crammed and living in tight quarters in what’s called battery cages. Did you know In Canada, about 25.2 million hens lay over 9 billion eggs each year. 71% of those hens (17.9 million) spend their entire lives in small cramped wire enclosures called battery cages. They are housed in crowded groups of 4-8 hens (BC SPCA 2019). Being phased out by 2036
Next, we might have a label that says enriched housing eggs. These chickens live in very similar environments to conventional caged chickens but they have slightly more room. That’s the main difference.
Third, we have what’s called cage-free eggs. These chickens don't live in cages, This poultry doesn’t live in cages but can still live in a crammed lifestyle indoors in a barn where there’s 20,000-40,000 crammed together on the floor of a barn with no access to outdoors.
Fourth, we have free-run eggs. Chickens can run through a barn and live on the floor as well. They still don’t typically have access to the outdoors but are provided nests to use inside.
Fifth, there are free-range eggs. I always found it the trickiest to remember the difference between free-run and free-range eggs.
- Have access to as little as 2 square feet of outdoor area per bird, but doesn’t gauarntee the chicken has spent any time at all outside. As a farmer, they just have to promise the chickens have access to a small exit to outdoors at least 120 days a year, minimum 6 hours a day. They can still all be crammed into a barn.
Sixth, are organic eggs. Organic eggs can also be considered free-run or free-range depending on the chicken’s living situation. The organic label emphasizes the chickens do get more space that the other grades of chickens, they will only be eating organic feed, not given antibiotics or hormones and must live in a cage-free environment with access to an outdoor area
This is where we think it starts to get more interesting or rather what you might picture when you think about chickens on a farm The second highest label an egg can have is Pasture-raised.
Seventh, pasture raised chickens will live in an environment that is most consistent with the natural world a chicken would be familiar with. With this label, it means the chickens were raised in pasture, given the ability to roam and peck at soil. This gives chickens the opportunity to get some grub and insects into their diet along with their regular feed. This is considered a much more regular diet than what the caged chickens would get. This label is often paired with the ‘Certified Humane’ label.
Finally, the highest grade egg we found an egg could get is Certified Humane.
Eighth, certified humane chickens will have access to at least 108 square feet of outdoor space per bird and access to cover as they need it. These chickens seem to live their best lives as they are allowed to roam freely during the day and get to engage in what they do best, forage, socialize and bathe as much or as little as they want.
Why Care About Egg Labels?
At Everyday Micros, we try and source the highest quality eggs possible for our community. We’ve partnered with farmers in Ontario who provide certified humane eggs. We enjoy them so much because we notice a difference in flavour and the way they cook. More importantly, did you know that for example, “Pasture-raised hens also produce healthier eggs, according to a 2003 study out of Pennsylvania State University. In it, researchers found that one pasture-raised egg contains twice as much omega-3 fat, three times more vitamin D, four times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene than eggs from hens raised on traditional feed.”
We often encourage people when they’re shopping for food to try and make the best purchase decisions possible with the Good, Better, Best philosophy. If the best decision you can make at that moment is to prioritize eating certified humane eggs, then great! Go for it. If your priority is elsewhere and want to get Organic eggs, then that’s better. And if all else fails, think about what might be a good decision. For example, getting Free-run eggs might be a good decision since you're trying to avoid caged eggs.
Our mission is to help you feel more informed and confident in making decisions on what type of food you want to eat and know where your food comes from. Hopefully this blog article helps so next time you're in the supermarket or talking to a farmer at the farmer's market, you'll know what to look for!
Certified Humane eggs have high levels of Omega 3, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Beta-Carotene. Here are some of the nutritional benefits
- Common healthy fat important for your eyes and brain
- associated with decreased inflammation
- help support healthy cardiovascular and endocrine system
- reduce inflammation
- help control infections
- canreduce cancer cell growth (Harvard School of Public Health, 2023)
- brain health and muscles, nerves and immune system
- support the immune system
- Protects from oxidative stress
- Is an anti-oxidant that protects body from damaging molecules called free radicals
https://www.getcracking.ca/egg-carton-labels-and-what-they-all-mean (Egg farmers of Ontario)
https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/beta-carotene#:~:text=Beta%2Dcarotene%20is%20an%20antioxidant,a%20number%20of%20chronic%20illnesses. Mount Sinai
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-e/ Harvard School of Public Health
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/#:~:text=It%20is%20a%20fat%2Dsoluble,control%20infections%20and%20reduce%20inflammation. Harvard School of Public Health
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17290-omega-3-fatty-acids Cleveland Clinic
https://certifiedhumane.org/article-explains-difference-pasture-raised-free-range-eggs/ Certified Humane
https://bcegg.com/eggs-101/egg-labels-101/ BC Egg
https://blog.whiteoakpastures.com/blog/free-range-vs-pasture-raised-difference White Oak Pasture
Note* This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.