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What do the Labels on Egg Cartons Mean?

What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean? Does my back yard flock meet these labels? Are my chicken’s eggs healthier vs. store bought eggs? We eat our chicken’s eggs. I sell the eggs. Our chicken eggs are given to our family. It’s important to me to have the best eggs possible.

Marketing always manages to sneak into our subconscious whether it is right or wrong, especially when we really haven’t done the research to ensure the claims are accurate and meaningful. Then there’s the whole question of what is accurate.

Labels you will see on Egg Cartons

ALL NATURAL There is no legal definition for all natural. Does that mean our chickens eat natural bugs vs fake bugs?

FARM FRESH– Again, no legal definition for this. Did the eggs come from a farm, like with crops and cows? Were the eggs from a farm that has 2 million chickens laying eggs in cages? What about my 1 acre, is this a farm since we grow food, raise chickens and have a pack of chihuahuas?

HORMONE-FREE– Are you aware it’s illegal to give hormones to poultry in the USA? Therefore all eggs and chicken are hormone free so the label is redundant.

ANTIBIOTIC-FREE– Laying hens are not typically given antibiotics although some meat chickens may have been if necessasary.

USDA-CERTIFIED ORGANIC– A farm must apply for this designation and undergo inspections to ensure all standards are being met. Chickens are fed organic feed from their 2nd day of life. In addition, the chickens must have access to the outdoors.

I am not certified organic, however, I take great care to meet the needs of my chickens, and they are only fed organic non -GMO food. In addition to a great deal of research on my part, my daughter, Stevie, who works for the USDA specializing in poultry and has been an excellent resource.

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What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean?
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FREE-RANGE– This means that the chickens do not live in cages. They have some access to the outdoors. Please note: Access to the outdoors doesn’t mean they actually go outdoors. Officially there is no certification for this, with the exception of an additional certification such as USDA Organic or Humane Certified is also listed.

My Chickens have free will to go between coop and run from sun up to sun down. Read all about my coop here.

CAGE-FREE– Literally means cage-free. That the hens can roam around a large barn.

HUMANE FARM ANIMAL CARE CERTIFIED HUMANE RAISED AND HANDLED– Farms must apply for this special certification, meet the standard and maintain the standards. The chickens will be fed a healthy diet that has no hormones or antibiotics, have plenty of areas to roam and behave naturally.

I feed my hens the best quality food I can get, chicken crumbles are always available as well as scratch to encourage foraging daily. Both are organic and non-GMO. My chickens have a large coop and plenty of space in the run. The run is L-shaped. I have provided different levels for them to hang out with various roosts made of thick branches. There are shade and sunny areas, he ground is a deep litter composting mix for them to find bugs in and a dry dirt area for dust bathing.

PASTURE-RAISED– This means the chickens roam on a pasture where they can eat grass and bugs. There is no specific certifications for this. So, unless the label says USDA Organic or Humane Certified free-range Or pasture-raised doesn’t necessarily mean they are free ranged or in a pasture.

My chickens are not technically pasture-raised. Much of the day they are contained in their predator-proof run for their own safety. They are definitely free-range, as they can go between their coop and run as they choose.

Having said that, they do have time each day out of the run to explore the fenced in part of our property which is about half an acre. During this free-range time, they have at least one human on Hawk Guard Duty. If a hawk or two, sometimes even three, are spotted then reinforcements are called out.

What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean?
#eggs #fresheggs #farmfresh #freerange # Cagefree #Hens #Chickens #antobioticfree #hormonefree #allnatural #eggcartonlabels #humanefarmcre #certifiedhumaneraisedandhandled #poultry

PASTEURIZED– This is when the eggs are heated to destroy any pathogens, but not enough to cook them. My eggs are not pasteurized. I do wash them and keep them in the fridge, selling the most recently laid eggs. You can learn more about how I package them here.

FERTILIZED– This means the hens have been raised with a rooster in the flock. My hens do not currently have a rooster in their flock.

OMEGA-3– A label meaning that chickens are fed a dietary supplement to increase the Omega-3 fatty acids in their eggs. The feed I give my chickens does have such a supplement added. Also, I give them whole foods with Omega 3’s. For example, the chickens receive seeds high in Omega-3’s, such as flaxseed and chia seed regularly. I know I personally benefit from these seeds added to the smoothies I make myself, too.

United Egg Producers Certified

If you want to read the specific guild lines you may do so at the UEP website here. In addition to the UEP Certified website, I also referenced the article “Marketing Labels” in the Backyard Poultry Magazine, December2018/January2019 issue.

In Conclusion

What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean? In truth, they don’t really mean anything. Labels or taglines are intended to make you feel secure in the food you’re eating. Since it is not always clear what the definition or certification behind these labels are I suggest you do your own research.

Egg cartons are not alone in marketing tricks and labels or tag lines. Again, do your research. These days the new tagline is Gluten Free, it’s even on water bottles. So, please, use some common sense.

Want to know more about your food? Know your farmers. Shop the farmers market. Perhaps you can even trade with neighbors who also grow things. Know where your food comes from.

Buy locally grown and raised food from farmers you trust. Perhaps that is a neighbor or friend such as me. I raise and care for my chickens in the way I think is healthiest for both my chickens and those eating their eggs. I’m very happy to share with you what choices I’ve made and why. Feel free to ask me anything. Come on over and see for yourself how I keep my chickens and how I handle the eggs.

Will you share with me what do the labels on Egg Cartons mean to you? DId you learn something new?

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What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean?
#eggs #fresheggs #farmfresh #freerange # Cagefree #Hens #Chickens #antobioticfree #hormonefree #allnatural #eggcartonlabels #humanefarmcre #certifiedhumaneraisedandhandled #poultry

Happy chickens, Healthy Eggs.


I currently live in Williamsburg, Virginia with my husband and three youngest children. I'm trying to spend as much time knitting as I can.

9 thoughts on “What do the Labels on Egg Cartons Mean?

  1. If I live near you, I will buy all of your chicken’s eggs. You feed and treat those chickens way too good.
    I personally witnessed it.

    1. Such great information all in one place! More and more it’s so important to know what’s in your food, how it’s made/raised, and where it’s coming from.

  2. The hormone one really bugs me and I think that statement should be illegal because it’s so misleading. Ideally we know the person raising the chickens and buy them from like you.

  3. This is great because reading labels is not as simple as you’d imagine! We love getting eggs from our backyard chickens. But when they aren’t laying and we need to purchase from the store it’s great to know what we’re actually buying! Thanks!

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