For you city folk:
, a term regulated by the USDA, means that the eggs come from hens that, put simply, aren’t caged: They can “freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle, but [do] not have access to the outdoors.” Considering the conventional cage is 8 ½ by 11 inches, or the size of a piece of paper, this seems like a better lifestyle — but there are downsides, too. According to All About Eggs
by Rachel Khong, cage-free facilities have more hen-on-hen violence and lower air quality than facilities that use cages.
, another USDA term, means that the eggs come from hens that have some sort of access to the outdoors. However, it doesn’t mean that the hens actually go
outdoors, or that the outdoor space is more than a small, fenced-in area; it simply implies that a door exists that a farmer could at some point open.
is not a term regulated by the USDA; however, if the carton says “pasture-raised” and also
includes stamps that say “Certified Humane” and/or “Animal Welfare Approved,” it means that each hen was given 108 square feet of outdoor space, as well as barn space indoors. This is pretty much as close to the bucolic, E-I-E-O farm vibe you’ll get when dealing with large-scale egg producers, so if you’re looking to support those practices, keep a look out for those labels.
Around here most have a hen house with a fenced in area attached and are free to come and go as they please.