You may have found yourself stuck in front of the egg isle, wondering why there is such a wide range of choices and prices and what could be so different between all these seemingly identical eggs.
You may also have heard that you absolutely must buy free-range or organic eggs.
But, as usual, there are aways things that aren’t said.
In this article, you will find all the information you need to choose the right egg.
Firstly, you may have noticed that the eggs usually have something printed on the shell. This information can give you a first indication as to the origin of your eggs.
The first number, ranging from 0 to 3 gives you the Method of Production.
0 = Organic
1 = Free-Range
2 = Barn
3 = Cages
You then have a long code, starting with a reference to the Country of Origin, e.g. starting with “UK”, followed by the Producer Identity Code.
Finally, you have the best before date, which is usually of 28 days after being laid.
If in the UK, you may also have the symbol of a lion on the side. This is the British Lion Quality Mark which distinguishes the eggs produced in accordance with UK and EU law and the British Lion Quality Code of Practice. Here is the link for more information : http://www.lioneggfarms.co.uk/information/british-lion-quality-code-of-practice/
Now lets focus on what you’re reading this article for : the method of production.
As you may imagine, caged hens barely get any leg space to move around, and their wings and beaks are often clipped in order to avoid cannibalism. Some are raised their whole life in cages and never even get to feel the fresh outside air or see the sun. Not only would that be depressing for any animal or person, but it also means that they will be lacking in essential vitamins and especially exercise. This results in the hens gradually getting fatter and fatter, until their weakened legs can’t even hold their weight anymore, and they are doomed to a life of staying immobile and waiting. One way of detecting these hens is by looking at their legs (if they are still on the chicken you’re buying, always check) – they will have rings around their ankles from the urine they have been living in. Being in such conditions often leads to illness and therefore antibiotics, which will evidently be transferred to the eggs we eat.
Knowing all this, you may think you’re playing it safe buying un-caged eggs, but this horrific phenomenon can also happen with barn hens, and even free-range. Indeed, free-range doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing in every country – different laws and regulations apply and there are varying efforts in labelling enforcements. In the UK, according to certain regulations, all you would need in order to label your eggs “free-range” is a tiny hole in your barn (through which a hen could go if she really wanted to), i.e. “access to the outdoors”. The problem with this is, most of the time, the hens have become too fat to go through any hole, and if they are fit enough to go through, the dominant hens may not let them pass. Furthermore, no law says how big the outdoor area should be. Needless to say, we may easily be tricked into buying the wrong eggs.
With organic eggs at least, you are certified that the hens are eating organic food (no pesticides) and that they aren’t being pumped with antibiotics. The hens of this category enjoy more exposure to the outdoors than non-organic free range hens, and less crowded living conditions.
The best eggs you could possibly buy are pasture-raised eggs. The hens are free to run around in open spaces, soak up the sun and feast on bugs and worms. The good life. This will be specified on the package, although they may be rare to find. If you can’t find any, I would go for organic free-range eggs.
Obviously, the price increases with the quality, but since we are only supposed to eat about 3 eggs per week, I think it’s worth it to invest in a slightly more expensive pack each week instead of buying two or three bad ones.
I hope this article will have enlightened you on the secrets of egg labelling, and that you will have eliminated at least caged eggs from your grocery list!