Deciphering Labels: Eggs

In my last post related to poultry I mentioned that there are some different labeling rules for eggs because there are different standards for chickens kept for eggs vs. meat. Here are the basics to help you understand what labels mean when purchasing chicken eggs.

Natural, fresh, or pure: No special meaning and doesn’t tell you anything about how the chickens are raised.

Cage-free or Free-range: There are very limited standards behind these terms. It does mean that they were not kept in a tight space their whole lives, but it does not  mean that they spent any time at all outside, nor whether they were given antibiotics or arsenic. It does mean that they had access to the outside at some point.

Antibiotic free or or arsenic freeJust as the term states, but no knowledge about living conditions. You may also see hormone free advertised for eggs, but all eggs should be hormone-free because it is illegal to give hormones to poultry.

Organic:  This is one of the better classifications and means, as with chicken, that the chicken were given organic grain, and that they were not given antibiotics or arsenic for growth and that they had some access to get outside.

Pastured: This term is not regulated, however, when used honestly it should mean that the poultry could be outside as long as they wanted and that they were allowed a more natural diet. This indicates the most naturally raised chickens and can be difficult to find in supermarkets and quite expensive.

Omega 3 eggs: Means that the chickens were fed Omega-3 rich diet such as flaxseed. This is a generally health choice, these eggs contain between 3 to 18 times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids found in other chicken eggs. If designated in high Omega-3 fatty acids, the eggs should indicate the amount that they contain. Non-Omega-3-enhanced eggs contain about 30 mg omega-3 fatty acids for comparison.


  1. Egg Nutrition Center, Egg Carton Labeling Terms 
  2. Food, What the Heck Should I Eat? By Mark Hyman, MD
  3., Pastured vs. Omega-3 vs. Conventional Eggs – What’s the Difference?
  4. United States Department of Agriculture, Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms

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