STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EARTH SCIENCES - EARTH SYSTEMS PROGRAM

Sustainable Choices

Cage-free Eggs & Free-range Chickens

Simplicity:
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Carbon Impact:
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Money Savings:
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Health Helper:
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Overview
Cage-free or free-range eggs indicate that the chicken that laid them had access to an outdoor pasture space. This gives a chicken the opportunity to live in a more natural environment and lay more nutrient-rich eggs. While it is laudable to strive for free-range chickens, eggs with the free-range or cage-free label do not necessarily translate into chickens roaming through a bucolic pasture. Rather, the label simply means that the chickens must have an open door that gives them the opportunity to go outdoors. Because they are often raised indoors and are vulnerable to disease and pests, many of these chickens never actually go outside but instead live in cramped indoor spaces producing our “cage-free” eggs. In order to get truly free-range eggs, buy directly from local farmers who raise true pasture-raised chickens, research your egg-farmer’s practices, or ask your local grocery store to carry pasture-raised eggs.

Tips & Tricks
Buy local cage-free eggs and visit the farm. This is the only way to see if you eggs comes from truly free-ranging chickens.

Learn more about your current egg provider. If you’d like to know more about how your eggs are produced, do some research about the chickens behind the label on your egg carton. Call the farm, pay a visit if it’s nearby, or do some internet sleuthing to learn if your eggs are truly pasture-raised.

Talk to your local grocer about pasture-raised eggs. Make sure they are aware of the difference between eggs with a “cage-free” label and ones that are pasture-raised. Ask them for information about the eggs they carry, and express your interest in seeing a supply of local, pasture-raised eggs.

Web & Print Resources
Find free-range farms near you:
www.eatwellguide.com

Read about cage-free eggs in the news:
www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-04-10-eggs-cage_x.htm
www.csmonitor.com/2004/1027/p15s01-lifo.html

Personal Story
This material originally appeared in the Slate.com article “Henrietta, Chicken of Mystery” by Jon Katz (February 26, 2007).

I've had a small crew of chickens for a few years now. My wife says they're the only truly useful creatures on the farm. They're industrious, pecking all day at grubs and bugs, purposefully marching around the pasture. Aside from water and a handful of feed and corn each morning, they require little from me. At dusk, they hop up onto their roosts in the barn. In return, they supply all the eggs we need.

To read more, see www.slate.com/id/2160633/fr/rss/

Fun Facts

The cage-free and free-range labels only mean that the chickens have access to the outdoors.

Pasture-raised eggs have 10% less overall fat and 400% more beneficial omega-3 fats. Source