How to Avoid Being Fooled by Egg Labels

what egg labels meanPerplexed by ALL the labels on egg cartons? It's a challenge indeed, even for a food expert. 

The world of eggs can get mystical if you don't know what their labels mean!

Cage-free, Pasture-raised, Vegetarian-fed, Hormone-free, Free-range, Humane- certified!

So, how do you know which is the best for you?  

It's sad that our food industry has made things complicated. Fancy, confusing or deceiving food labels has now become the norm. 

Here's your guide to understanding egg carton labels…thanks to the Cornucopia Institute, an organization that researches and advocates sustainable agricultural policy. The website decodes what the labels mean and be ready for shockers! 

How to Decipher Egg Carton Labels


The regulation for the term “free-range” is poor. It's not backed by guidelines or audits. If hens have any outdoor access, it may be through a few small doors that lead to a screened-in porch. Manufacturers can label their egg as “free-range” under this condition. Disappointing isn't it?! 


The term “cage-free” does not mean the hens are not caged. If you have a vision that cage-free chickens roam about free, it's not what you think it is.  Cage-free hens do not live in a cramped cage. Instead, they live in multi-level aviaries.  Cage-free maybe just better than the “free-range,” since they can exhibit natural behaviors. It includes spreading their wings, pecking, grooming, walking, and nesting. 

Organic eggs

According to the USDA definition, the source of organic eggs must be from “uncaged hens that are free to roam in their houses and have access to the outdoors.”

The hens do get an organic feed, which includes no pesticides or fertilizers. It's a good starting point yet, their access to outdoors is questionable. 


It means, hens eat grass and bugs and graze outside. It looks good on the egg carton, but there are no audits or regulations here. Some farms engage in beak-cutting and the culling of male chicks. Unless you know the farm where you're buying these eggs don't buy. Check the living conditions of the farm before you buy if at all possible. 


This means hens get only plant foods such as grass, grains. It also means they get an unnatural diet and do not engage in pecking for worms, insects or grass. This is a clear sign that the hens had no access to outdoors. Stay away from such eggs, they're a waste of money. 

Enriched with Omega-3

These hens may get a mix of flaxseed meal with their corn feed.  It provides a higher amount of omega-3s than traditional eggs. Note that this label doesn't mean anything about living conditions.

Certified Humane

It means hens live under humane conditions. Third party organizations follow strict regulations and audit egg farms.  Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved and American Humane Certified are among them. 


Have you been paying extra for this label?  If so, it is a rip off! Because according to the U.S. Federal laws, laying hens do not get hormones. This means all eggs are hormone-free, a law regulated by the government. 

Farm-fresh/ All natural

This term means nothing, it's just a fancier way to entice you to buy the product. Sorry, if it got you thinking you're buying eggs just rushed from a local farm to your store. 

So, which type of egg is the best?

Best egg type labelsIn a perfect world, pasture-raised eggs are the best.

They tend to have 10 to 22 times more Omega-3s too!

If you can find a farm close to you, that encourages organic farming methods and rears hen, go for it. 

The second best choice is the organic egg at your grocery store. You can buy organic, pasture-raised eggs from many local food co-ops and farmers markets.  Community-supported agriculture programs sell this type of eggs without biting on your budget.

Don't forget to check out Cornucopia Institute website's egg scorecard. It rates organic egg farms on a variety of factors.  A consumer has the right to know about food.

Keep in mind, hen care makes a huge difference in the quality and nutrition of the eggs. If you're able to buy from a local farmer, see the place where hens live. Support the local farms that practice the traditional way of raising hens. 

If you want more information on crazy ways food manufacturers get tricky with labeling then check these articles out:

How to Avoid Being Fooled by Honey Labels.

6 Hidden Dangers Lurking in Your Yogurt.

9 Sneaky Tricks Brands Use on Ingredient Labels.

Yours in health and happiness,


P.S. Please share this article to help me spread the word on what all these egg carton labels really mean. Do food labeling tactics make your buying decisions that much harder when it comes to eggs?