Humane Scrambling: The 411 on Egg Labels

Most people don’t know anything about the eggs that they purchase when food shopping. The labels have plenty of meaning behind them regarding how farms treat their hens, and consumers should be aware of what they’re purchasing. Here’s what to look out for the next time you stroll to your neighborhood supermarket.

Certified Organic: The birds reside uncaged in barns or warehouses and have some access to the outdoors. They are brought up on organic, all-vegetarian diets. Despite how decent these conditions seem, farmers are also permitted to starve hens for more egg laying and trim their beaks to prevent cannibalism from overcrowding.

Free-Range: Similar to the Certified Organic label, hens also live somewhat freely. They can partake in nesting and foraging, and their diets aren’t strict (AKA: they might be fed some harmful products). As with certified organic, starvation and beak cutting are allowed.

Certified Humane: Hens may be kept indoors at all times, but there are rules that prohibit overcrowding. They are given enough freedom to do what they were born to do: nest, perch and take dust baths. While starvation is prohibited, beak cutting is also allowed.

American Humane Certified: Farmers are cramping their birds’ styles, cramming them in “furnished cages”, which are only the size of a legal sheet of paper. While starvation is prohibited, beak cutting is also allowed.

United Egg Producers Certified: We usually don’t try to sway your purchasing decisions, but try to stay away from these eggs! This program permits cruel and inhumane farm practices, including restricting their birds in cages (each having the area smaller than a piece of paper) and not permitting them to act like real animals. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed. The vast majority of the egg industries in the U.S. comply with this rule, so make sure to check your labels and choose cage-free!

Animal Welfare Approved: These are probably the most animal-friendly eggs. Farmers let their birds roam free of cages, perform natural behaviors, and go outdoors and perch anytime. They also allow natural molting and don’t trim beaks. Unfortunately, these eggs are rarely sold in supermarkets, so keep an eye out for these in a local farmers’ market.

SOURCE: The Humane Society of the United States

What can you do?