Defining “Free Range” and “Cage Free” Eggs

ratatouille_eggs

Pick up any carton of eggs and you’re likely to see a plethora of ‘buzz’ words on them, all designed to catch your attention and entice you to buy them. Words like ‘cage free’ and ‘free range’ and ‘vegetarian diet’ and even ‘omega 3’ all swim in front of your eyes. What do they all mean? Is one better than the other? Are they gimmicks or do they have validity?

Cage free means that the chickens were not kept in cases or cages. Usually, however, they are still confined in a building in very close quarters with very little room to move and little or no access to outdoors. When we think ‘cage free’ often we picture happy chickens roaming around the barnyard.

When we think ‘free range’, we might imagine chickens roaming the countryside. In fact, free range is not quite as free as one would like to think. The term ‘free range’ means that the chickens were allowed access to the outside. It does not specify for how long or what the quality of the ‘outside access’ is. It could literally mean that a door at the end of the building which houses the chickens is left open which, technically, could provide ‘outside access’.

Vegetarian diet and grain fed are relatively the same term. Vegetarian diet sounds great and healthy even. Fresh vegetables and fruits galore. It’s terrific, with one, tiny little caveat. Chickens are carnivores. They like to eat insects. Have you ever watched a chicken roam around on a farm? Or perhaps in your neighbor’s back yard? They hunt and peck and scratch. They are looking for juicy little morsels of buggy goodness. A chicken raised on a vegetarian diet is likely being fed industrialized grain (with a high probability of said feed being GMO) and never allowed outside.

Omega 3 eggs come from hens whose diet includes flax seed or fish oil. While omega 3 fatty acids can play an important role in a healthy diet, they can be easily found in their natural sources (flax seeds, fatty fish, walnuts) and it is not necessary to consume ‘omega 3 eggs’. Also, as with the vegetarian diet fed chickens, it is highly likely that they are never allowed outside and are kept in cramped quarters.

Pasture raised means that the chickens are raised outside, in a pasture. In their natural habitat, if you will. They have free access to roam at will, consume all of the lovely insects they would like and have access to shelter (usually a barn or hen house). Some pasture raised hens are fed a supplemental grain diet as well.

Some of the USDA regulations seem to be loosely interpreted by the egg industry as a marketing ploy in an effort to entice consumers to purchase their product (eggs). Cage free and free range sound great until you read the USDA guidelines and realize that it doesn’t quiet mean what the advertising implies it is. So which is best? Well, it is a matter of what is important to you. If you are like me, you would like to know that your chickens were treated with care, allowed free access to a barnyard filled with delicious insects and gorged themselves silly on them.

 

Oh give me a home, where the chickens do roam….

 

 

 

 

Partner Spotlight: Pete & Gerry’s

pete and gerrys

This week we are highlighting a local farm where we source cage-free eggs for many of our recipes: Pete and Gerry’s. Pete and Gerry’s farm is located in Monroe, NH and has been family owned since the 1950s –now operated by CEO, Jesse Laflamme, and his father, Gerry Laflamme. Pete and Gerry’s is one of the only producers on their scale to be 100% cage free, and were the first egg producer to achieve Certified Humane status in 2003. Their commitment to the healthiest, best-tasting and high-quality eggs is possible only through their humane farming practices–which consist of forming relationships with other small family farms and creating a safe, rewarding work environment for their employees. All of the roughly 40 small family farms producing for Pete and Gerry’s must meet Certified Humane standards and pass their regular inspections and audits.

Pete and Gerry’s commitment to sustainability sets it apart from other egg producers. Their loyalty comes from the desire to not only leave a great family business behind, but also to leave the planet, employees, livestock and community better off.

To learn more about Pete and Gerry’s farm, visit their website here.

Back to School: Five Fast & Healthy Recipes to Fuel Your Kids’ Day

September is National Breakfast Month! Whether or not you agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, having a healthy, fulfilling breakfast can help your kids (and you!) get off to school energized and ready to learn.

Here are five great choices for breakfast time, along with tips to speed up the prep and save you valuable morning minutes.

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2014 Food Resolutions: 5 Kitchen Skills You Must Learn This Year

It’s a new year, and we bet that your resolutions don’t have too much to do with the time you’re spending in the kitchen. But if you’re like the majority of Americans, vowing to save money by eating in, or to cook more and eat healthier, there are some basic kitchen skills you need to acquire.

We’re making it easy for you. Put these five essential kitchen and cooking skills on your list for 2014, and by the end of the year, you’ll be a pro.

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