When you need a protein-packed breakfast, look no further than yummy, delicious eggs. Nothing says farm-to-table like eggs. And that language printed on the carton can help you make an informed egg-purchasing decision, right?
Well, as it turns out, the language on egg cartons isn’t as informative as you might think. In fact, according to some sources, egg cartons often feature phrases and terms that mislead consumers. Below is a breakdown of just a few meaningless buzzwords.
According to LifeHacker, when you see the words “fresh”, “farm-fresh” or “natural” on a carton of eggs, they mean absolutely nothing. The same goes for “hormone-free” or “no added hormones.” These are nothing more than marketing terms with no real value.
Describing eggs as fresh or farm-fresh simply means they came from a chicken. This isn’t the most helpful way to decide on which eggs to buy. While the FDA has a grading system that actually accounts for freshness, empty phrases like “farm fresh” have no meaning behind them.
Also, egg cartons that claim their eggs are “natural” is also pointless since no egg is unnatural. As for the “hormone-free” labels, the FDA banned the practice of adding hormones to egg-producing chickens more than 60 years ago.
As UEP Certified explained, “No growth or production hormones are ever fed to pullets (younger hens) being grown to be egg-laying hens nor during the egg-laying period.”
Some egg cartons feature words and phrases that are technically correct, but they really aren’t that helpful when deciding which eggs to purchase. “Brown” eggs are simply the color of the eggshell, but that doesn’t have an effect on the taste of the egg or its nutritional value.
“Omega-3” simply means that the chicken that laid the egg had a diet that featured omega-3 fatty acids. That doesn’t necessarily mean the eggs in the carton you are buying will contain those acids.
“Cage-free” doesn’t mean what you think, either. Yes, the birds that laid the eggs weren’t kept in cages. But, that doesn’t mean those chickens lived on an idyllic farm in the countryside. The egg-laying chickens often don’t go outside and are raised in cramped, over-populated, and disgusting conditions.
Helpful Egg Information
Luckily, there are words on your egg carton that actually mean something. Eggs can only be marketed as “free-range” when the chickens do have “outdoor access” or “access to the outdoors.”
The term “pasture-raised” means that there were no more than “1000 birds per 2.5 acres,” and the fields they lived in were rotated.
“Pesticide-free” is a legit egg description that means pesticides weren’t used to grow the food the chicken ate in its daily diet. While “vegetarian” means the chickens didn’t eat any meat or worms.
According to the Atlantic, the labeling term “no antibiotics” means that farmers didn’t use antibiotics “in the hens’ feed or water during growing periods or while hens are laying the eggs.”
As for the term “organic,” the eggs have to be part of the USDA’s “National Organic Program.” Which requires that the eggs “come from chickens that are raised cage-free, fed an organic diet grown without pesticides, managed without antibiotics and hormones, and have seasonal access to the outdoors.”
Whether or not that can be trusted is up to the consumer.