You run to the store to grab a carton of eggs to make brunch and end up staring at the wall of egg cartons.
Cage Free, All Natural, Vegetarian-fed, Free Range, Organic.
You try to make sense of them all, but the longer you stare at them, the more confused you become. So you grab the cheapest one and hope the eggs taste good.
Been there, done that.
So I'm here to help you make sense of all that jargon. BUT, I'm not going to tell you which eggs to buy. That is for you to decide. However, my bias my sneak out at times. :)
Farm Fresh-Doesn’t that sound nice? Like your local farmer gathers those still warm eggs and brings them to the store for you to buy that day.
That’s not what it means. In fact, it means nothing. This isn’t a regulated term. It’s a term used to conjure up a favorable image in the consumer’s mind. But that’s it. Unless you are literally buying them from your local farmer, they are not “Farm fresh.”
All Natural-Again, another lovely image…that is just an image. Because I live on a farm with chickens, I know they “naturally” eat worms, grasshoppers, weeds, seeds, grass, bugs, and the occasional mouse and toad.
I don’t think that’s what the chickens housed in cages eat. Do you?
Vegetarian Fed-As I said above, chickens are not vegetarians. God created them to eat meat. In order to be vegetarian fed, the hens must be kept inside in cages so they don’t accidentally eat a bug.
Cage Free-These birds don’t have to live in cages, but they aren’t allowed access to outdoors. This may or may not be an issue for you. (And I’m not here to tell you what to believe…just to inform you of the labels).
Free Range-To legally be labeled as this, the chickens must have 2 square feet of outdoor access for a minimum of 6 hours per day. Because the birds are not in cages, they may choose if they want to go outside or stay inside. (If I was a chicken, I would totally stay inside on those cold wintery days! Just sayin…)
Pasture Raised-These chickens must be outdoors on vegetation-covered pasture for a minimum of 6 hours, with 108 square feet of space per chicken. (These guys probably eat the most “natural” diet because they are outside with the seeds, weeds, bugs they like. However, they are also fed a commercial feed as their main food source.)
Certified Organic-The only USDA-regulated label. Requires that hens get outdoor access and feed without GMOs, antibiotics, or animal products. I couldn’t find how much outdoor space the chickens were required to have, but I’m guessing it’s the same as the free range label. (Let me know if you find out!)
So what are ARNKA Acres eggs?
We sell you Free Range eggs. Our chickens have a spacious coop where they can roost in the rafters, peck at the dusty ground, and lay eggs in nesting boxes. We rotate their feed depending on what is available to us at the time. Usually it is a grain mix we have created, but occasionally it is a commercial feed from the store. They also get cow and goat milk on a regular basis. This helps them lay eggs with stronger shells. (Now you know why they are so much harder to crack than the ones from the grocery store!)
Our chickens can roam around in their outdoor fenced area. At one time, it was filled with weeds and grasses, but they scratched and ate it all so now it is just a dirt patch. We bring them garden and kitchen scraps and they come running to the gate when they see the Chicken Bucket filled with yummy treats. We leave the door between the pen and coop open year round, but they rarely go outside when it is really cold, windy, or the snow gets too deep.
I won’t pretend the coop is spic and span all the time or that the chickens lay their eggs in perfectly clean, fluffy pine shavings. They don’t. We scoop the coop completely a few times a year and the areas under their roosts more frequently. The chickens don’t mind because they are rarely on the ground anyway.
Once a customer asked me if I left the cobwebs all over the coop for insulation. Nope, I’m just too lazy to wipe them away. And the chickens love to eat the spiders.
It’s a win-win.