Sunday, April 15, 2007

Egg Types

1. Pastured— This term is just coming into use. Simply put Pastured chickens spend their day in an open pasture. They eat green grass which is the primary source of Omega-3. They also eat bugs and grubs. Chickens are not vegetarians, they are omnivorous. They don't just have "access" to a small outdoor space, they live outdoors except at night when they are shut up in a coop.

2. Free range or free roaming— Poultry are free to roam; however, the use of the term "free range" is only defined by the USDA for poultry production, and need only mean that the bird has had some access to the outdoors each day, which could be a dirt or concrete feedlot. USDA considers five minutes of open-air access each day to be adequate. Claims are defined by UDSA, but are not verified by third party inspectors.

3. Cage Free—
This term implies that birds were not housed in cages. However, this label does not guarantee access to the outdoors, and is not verified by any third party.

4. No antibiotics administered, raised without antibiotics or antibiotic-free—
The USDA allows producers to label meat and poultry products with the claims "no antibiotics administered" or "raised without antibiotics." The term "antibiotic-free" is not approved for use by the USDA. Claims are defined by UDSA, but are not verified by third party inspectors.

5. Vegetarian Diet—
Poultry are fed grains and vegetarian supplements without any animal by-products. This claim is verified by third-party inspectors only for USDA organic eggs. This is actually an unnatural diet for chickens, because chickens are omnivorous.

6. Omega 3—
Some egg labels state the level of Omega-3, a fatty acid that can help sustain normal blood pressure, promote normal blood clotting and keeps our blood vessels flexible. While an ordinary egg contains 18 mg. of Omega-3, an Omega-3-enriched egg typically contains 100-350 mg. Egg farmers increase omega-3 levels by feeding their hens grain rich in these substances. Claims are not verified by third-party inspectors.

Whole Foods Market has started a program, in late 2006, to make these labeling categories more transparent. Many shoppers when they see "Free Range" assume that the hens are out Free, on a Range, this is not true and is very misleading. The egg business has been dominated by very large industrial type egg producers and use every marketing ploy legally available to make their product more likely to be chosen by the uneducated shopper.

This Whole Foods labeling system will be based on Five Stars, and only true Pastured eggs will be able to achieve the Five Star rating on the labels. World's Best Eggs aims to be one of the very first producers to achieve this rating.

The proof is in the yolk. Crack open a "Free Range" vegetarian fed egg, and then beside that crack open a Pastured egg and note the difference in the color of the yolk. The Pastured yolk will invariably be a deeper golden yellow color.

Pastured eggs tend to come from small family farms that practice sustainable methods organic or not and even if these eggs are not certified Organic, they are still far superior to eggs produced by “Free Range” hens who spend their entire life inside a barn.

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