Monday, October 2, 2023

What you need to know about egg labels

By Elizabeth Poisson Poultry Times staff

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. — According to, the eggs that have labels on them indicate that they came from farms that follow the United Egg Producers certified or the United Egg Producers certified cage-free guidelines. This guarantees ideal hen welfare.

An independent Scientific Advisory Council establishes the guidelines, and they are updated continuously to better the production of eggs. Certified egg producers must undergo annual audits at random by independent auditors. At least 25 percent of layer houses are audited every year.

The UEP notes the following as descriptions of the various labels found on egg cartons:

American Humane Certified

These eggs have been laid on farms that meet the requirements of the American Humane Certified standards. The hens are in cage-free, enriched colony or free range/pasture habitats that are backed by science-based animal welfare measures.

Certified Humane

Certified Humane standards are like the American Humane Certified standards. The hens lay their eggs on farms that meet the conditions of the Certified Humane standards. Similar to the American Humane Certified standards, the chickens are in cage-free or free range settings.

USDA Certified Organic

These birds lay eggs in accordance with the USDA organic standards. The USDA includes a particular diet for the hens to eat that make eggs organic.


Most of time, the hens are kept indoors to keep safe from predators and bad weather. However, they are free to roam vertically and horizontally. This gives the birds the opportunity to be in a more natural habitat. They also have more natural behaviors because they can wander.

Free-Range or Pasture-Raised

The chickens are given only some access to the outdoors. There are no consistent conditions. These eggs normally cost much more because of the low amount of eggs to sell and high production amounts.

Grade A

The USDA Grade A label on the carton demonstrates the eggs were checked for quality and the weight was examined by a USDA grader. Farms do not have to their eggs graded. The farms who choose to have their eggs graded must pay for the service. State agencies must monitor the farms that do not have their eggs graded by the USDA. A person can tell when eggs have not been graded by the USDA because they will only have the “Grade A” sign without the USDA label.

Hormone Free

The label states that there no added hormones. This means that the hens were not given any supplemental hormones while they were raised. Also, by United States federal law, they are not to be given hormones.

Antibiotic Free

Hens are never given antibiotics. Farmers always use other methods other than antibiotics to guarantee the health of the birds. Farmers use biosecurity standards and vaccinations to increase the health of hens. In some cases, they could get sick, so farmers will use a limited number of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved antibiotics nurse the sick hens. The farms must comply with FDA regulations to make sure no antibiotic residues are found in the eggs.


The shells of the eggs are heated up to a point where they kill any pathogens found in the eggs. The FDA regulates this process of heating eggs, and they are heated up below the coagulation point. This type of egg is most helpful for people who have compromised immune systems.

Enriched with Omega-3

The hens are given an enhanced diet. The diet consists of canola, linseed or flaxseed. This makes the eggs enriched with Omega -3s. The eggs contain 100mg to 600mg of Omega-3s, in contrast to the regular 30 mg in regular eggs.

Vegetarian Fed

Chickens are omnivores which means they eat plants and animals. However, some hens will be given a vegetarian diet. This does not apply to free range or pasture eggs.


These are eggs that can be bought in specialty food stores. The eggs come from hens who have mated with a rooster. Commercially raised eggs are not fertile.

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