Free Range Eggs vs Regular Processed Eggs – How to Know the Difference

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If you go to the supermarket, in the eggs section, you’ll find eggs labeled “Fresh eggs”.

Oh, great! Of course, nobody would buy eggs labeled “Eggs that are not fresh”. But what happens is that when you read “Fresh eggs”, you immediately think of this:

free-range-chickens

Unfortunately, the reality of our modern world is very different.

In fact, the vast majority of commercial “fresh” eggs (I mean 80%-90% or more, depending on the country) should immediately make this image pop-up in your head:

laying-hens

A lot less convincing, of course.

Basically, regular, processed eggs are of a very low quality. They are laid by hens that are confined to tiny spaces, that get sick, that are injected tons of antibiotics, and that are fed sub-standard grain feed. And most “omega-3″ enriched eggs also come from these places.

Such eggs are definitely not good for your health. They are the eggs found in all processed foods, pasta made with eggs, etc. Another reason to avoid processed foods.

Now, finding high quality eggs from REAL free-range hens can be a daunting task in our modern, processed world, especially if you are like me and live in big cities.

In the US, the USDA has classified eggs according to a Grade system:

U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells.
U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are “reasonably” firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.
U.S. Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains. This quality is seldom found in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.

Consequently, you should at least shoot for Grade AA eggs, but there is nothing that really proves that they come from real free-range hens.

In Europe, a good way to know if your eggs come from free-range hens is to open the box and look at the number on the egg:
0 means eggs from organically raised, free-range hens
1 means eggs from free-range hens
2 means eggs from barn hens
3 means eggs from cage hens (above picture)
Basically, eggs with 0 or 1 are good. Sometimes, eggs labeled 1 will be as good as eggs labeled 0, and sometimes as bad as those labeled 2.

Your best bet is to check out a few different brands and see for yourself. After a lot of trial and error, my vote goes for these real free-range eggs. They are delicious…:

free-range-eggs

English translation:

Needs of the hen:
air
space
water
food
shelter
other hens
some rooster…

Customs of the hen:
they fly (not much)
they scratch
they forage
they fight
they peck

Products of the hens:
eggs
flesh
feathers
manure

Free-range hens.

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