Well, not exactly. Eggs may look like one size, one shape fits the bill, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Your typical grocery store dozen will generally be white on the outside with a pale yellow yolk. The chickens who laid the eggs are generally kept in cages their entire lives, usually indoors in overcrowded conditions.
Keep in mind that the richer the color of yolk – the higher the nutritional value and protein content. A yolk that is pale is well, exactly what the color indicates, weak and not a good choice, whereas a yolk that is golden yellow to almost orange is generally your the best bet.
The cage free variety eggs are from birds raised without cages, but what isn't clear is whether or not the birds were raised indoors or out. The difference between a crowded metal building and a small pasture or outdoor lot can mean the difference between pale yellow yolk or a protein-rich golden yolk.
Free range eggs come from an animal that had some access to the outdoors each day. However, the label “free-range” does not necessarily mean that the animal actually spent any time outside. As long as a door to the outdoors is left open for a period of time, the animal can be considered free range.
Pasture raised eggs come from a traditional farming technique that means the animals were raised outside in a humane, ecologically sustainable manner and eat the foods that nature intended for them. Animals raised on a pasture generally deliver the dark golden yolks that are the highest in protein much more than their counterparts who are being fattened on a feedlot or in a confined facility. The non-confined label can also fall under this heading, and that means the animals were not confined in a feedlot and had continuous access to the outside throughout their lifetime.
When you see an egg with “No added hormones” on the label, don't waste the extra money. According to the American Pastured Poultry Association, by law, hogs and poultry cannot be given any hormones so the label is misleading.
Another common label is “No Antibiotic Use” which means exactly what it says, no antibiotics were administered to the animal during it's lifetime. If an animal becomes sick and requires antibiotics, it will be taken out of the population and treated, but not sold with this label.
100% Vegetarian Fed is another common label which simply means that the animals were not fed any animal by-products (think Mad Cow). This label however does not guarantee that they were raised outdoors or on pasture.
Last but not least, comes the egg that is labeled “Organic”. What that means is that the product, it's producer and the farmer have met the USDA's organic standards are are certified by a USDA-approved food-certifying agency. Organic poultry must be fed only organically grown feed without any animal byproducts and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics. In addition, the animals must have access to the outdoors and have access to pasture.
So many eggs, so many choices, but I know in my book, I get farm-fresh pasture raised eggs when they are available, and organic when they are not. Local in my book is king and organic a strong contender. To find a member of the American Pastured Poultry Producer near you, go to www.apppa.org/producers.htm
Special thanks to the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association – www.apppa.org