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What Are Pasture-Raised Eggs

Even before a global pandemic made everyday chores a little bit more complicated and confusing, the simple act of perusing the grocery store always had the potential to add little pockets of anxiety into my day. If you’re like me there are constant questions like:

- “do I buy brand A because it’s on sale or brand B because it’s local?” or

- “1%, 2%, or whole?” (I’m actually lactose intolerant so my internal dilemma is more like “soy, almond, or oat milk?”)

These questions can really weigh heavy on your mind when you’re already experiencing major decision fatigue. And then there’s the egg aisle. You have variations in size, color, amount, type of feed, amount of space, etc. And then there are such large discrepancies in price! How can a dozen over here cost little more than a dollar and a dozen over there cost almost $8? I guess a simple answer is: not all eggs are created equally. You have conventional, organic, cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised. But what does all this mean and why does it matter?

Conventional: According to the United Egg Producers, over 90% of eggs in the US come from caged hens. These birds are confined to cages for the entirety of their egg-producing lives and are each given on average 67 square inches of room. They eat a diet of corn and soy. (They also tend to be subjected to painful body modifications in order to keep them contained in such small quarters but that’s a topic for another day.)

Cage-free: These hens are allowed less than 1 square foot of space to roam and are still confined to large buildings, usually unventilated warehouses or barns. They also are fed a diet of corn and soy.

Free-range: These hens have a little bit more room with a whopping 2 square feet to themselves. They’re also fed a corn and soy diet, with their food usually being supplied inside, so they don’t often venture outside to roam.

Pasture-raised: If a farmer is raising pasture-raised chickens that means he or she is providing each hen with 108 square feet to roam and explore. They eat what they find outside as well as a balanced supplemental feed. They have access to the outside, fresh air, sunlight, and space. These littl