Don’t Pay for Overpriced Eggs. Learn To Read the Labels

Find out what egg carton labels really mean.

Between the rainbow of shell colors and the multitude of labels, seals, and certifications, the egg section at the grocery store can raise a lot of questions these days. Learn to decode these often misleading labels so you can be on your way to whipping up omelets, egg noodles, pavlovas, and more, without the fear of wasting money on a marketing ploy. 

Not all eggs are created equal. There’s a direct correlation between how hens are raised and the quality of their eggs. Understanding the labels (such as cage free and pasture raised) gives insight into the living conditions, including access to the outdoors, roaming space, and feed, of the laying hens. The environment often has a direct impact on the quality, nutritional value, and taste, but not necessarily price, of the eggs. Demanding exorbitant prices for mediocre eggs is not uncommon. Become a savvy egg shopper by understanding the below labels often found on egg cartons, so you know what you’re paying for.


Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Certified Humane

The Humane Farm Animal Care’s high standards promote healthy hens and nutritious eggs, so look for cartons marked with its “Certified Humane” seal. This label guarantees that farmers are abiding by a precise set of animal care standards. Written and continually updated by veterinarians and animal welfare scientists, these standards regulate living conditions such as lighting, air, and food requirements.

Cage Free

Certified Humane Cage Free hens are free to roam around in a barn, with at least one and half square feet of space per bird, but often don’t have access to the outdoors. There are lighting requirements, periods of light and darkness to mimic nature, as well as access to perches and feed throughout the day.

Free Range

According to USDA stands, free-range chickens must have access to the outdoors, but this is only required during their laying cycle. However, Certified Humane Free Range standards are more strict. These hens must be outdoors for at least six hours a day (weather permitting) and have access to at least two square feet of roaming space per bird.

Pasture Raised

These eggs tend to be more expensive, but for good reason: They’re laid by Certified Humane Pasture Raised hens that are granted 108 square feet of roaming space per bird (with fields rotated regularly) and spend at least six hours a day outside. Penn State researchers found that pasture-raised eggs (such as Vital Farms) contain over twice the amount of omega-3, vitamin D, vitamin E, and beta-carotene as compared to eggs from hens raised on traditional feed.

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