Free range, cage free, organic…aren’t they all pretty much the same?
With all the controversy out there about Prop 2, it can get confusing as to what all the classifications mean. Free range, cage free, organic…aren’t they all pretty much the same? Not really. They each have small distinctions that actually set them apart from each other. Here we will dive into what free range eggs encompass.
If you’re like many people, when you head to the grocery store, you simply pick up a carton of store bought eggs and get on with your life. But if you’ve ever taken the time to research the eggs on all the other shelves in the dairy section, you will find that free range eggs stand out in a few ways. The labels can be misleading, especially when so many areas of the egg industry are not clearly defined or even enforced.
Product that comes from hens that are allowed to roam free.
When you choose free range eggs, you are buying a product that comes from hens that are allowed to roam free, without constant confinement to small battery cages that are being phased out thanks to Prop 2. While the beautiful imagery of a chickens grazing in a pasture all day may not be the reality at all farms, free range chickens are supposed to have daily access to the outdoors. They can come inside when they need shelter and are free to move about, socialize, peck, scratch, eat and stretch their wings – something they can’t do within small cages. Those in battery cages never see the light of day, are crammed in closely to each other, and have no personal space. Those are some of the major reasons Prop 2 was passed in California.
Flocks on such farms should be kept to a minimum, not only to give each chicken space to move on their own but to also reduce aggression found among hens that are in close proximity to one another. Some farmers trim the beaks of these birds so they won’t hurt each other. More reputable farms will stock fewer hens and will not cut beaks.
Many farmers employ the use of mobile sheds or paddocks that can help maintain pasture growth
Free range chickens ideally should have pasture growth, insects, green plants and other treats to eat in nature when they are outside. To avoid the possibility of pastures becoming dormant due to over picking by hens, many farmers employ the use of mobile sheds or paddocks that can help maintain pasture growth throughout the year, according to Free Ranger. These chickens are supplemented with grains-based feed to keep up their health and ensure a high rate of egg laying.
Free range eggs are thought to be healthier than commercial grade eggs. According to Mother Earth News, eggs from hens raised on pastures contain less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more vitamin A and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and beta carotene.
With no clear-cut legal definition and no strict government regulation on what exactly constitutes the definition of free range, it’s best for consumers to fully research the eggs they buy and purchase those products only from trusted sources.