With so much marketing and so many options at the store, sometimes we don’t know what to buy. We might sit there looking at the multiple options of the same product with the same look of confusion as when we first tried to learn geometry. Or maybe you were all geniuses at geometry. I, was not. I was like, ummm whaaaat?!
There are many products at the food store that offer so many options that we may stand there thinking the same thing I did when stepping into that summer school geometry class. I will write more about the differences between some of these food options, to better help us make informed decisions.
First up. Eggs.
Cage-free is good right? Wait, is free range better?! Hold on, what about organic? Or should I just go with conventional? I wondered these things myself. Here is the difference.
Cage-free means the chickens aren’t stuffed into small cages that we have seen examples of in the video clips of some egg farms. Cage-free chickens are often in an open barn type setup and they are usually allowed nest boxes and perches to lay their eggs. Now, the space can still be tight, but they aren’t packed liked sardines in cages. The actual setup depends on the farm.
Free Range makes it sound like the chickens all take group exercise classes in the sunshine. Like they all put on their addidas, matching track suits, with color coordinated sweat bands and shoes, and all go on routine jogs. Welllll, not quite. Wellll, maybe. Butttt, probably not.
Free range, according to the FDA, simply means the chickens have access to the outside. It doesn’t mean they were raised outdoors. Yes, they have access to the outdoors, but how often they actually make it out there, is anybody’s guess. Theoretically, it sounds very nice. What actually happens, is not quite as clear. Smaller farms may make it easier for the chickens to roam around in the fresh air, but unless you check with them individually, you don’t really know.
Organic eggs are what they sound like. They are produced from chickens who were fed organic feed and didn’t receive any type of antibiotic or vaccine. Also, organic eggs come from chickens never fed genetically engineered products.
Conventionally grown eggs came from chickens more than likely in tight cages, with little room to move. They may have been fed feed made with genetically modified crops, and may have received antibiotics or other types of vaccines.
Which ones should you buy? It really depends on how you look at the situation. Did a chicken that was raised free range, necessarily get more time outdoors than a cage free chicken? Maybe. You really don’t know unless you talk to the farmer who is a part of the process.
Me? I would like to think that if the chickens at least had access to the outdoors, that maybe a few of them ventured out from time to time. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but if there isn’t much of a difference in price between cage-free and free range, then I’ll go for the free range, to at least support the idea. I’m a big supporter of organic eating, if at all possible. Therefore, that is my usual choice as well.
As always, the best way to figure out how your food is actually grown, is to go to the source. Visiting farmers markets and buying directly from the farms themselves is great because you can have conversations with the people who are literally raising your food. They can explain to you how their animals or produce are raised, and you won’t have to worry about labels or marketing terms that can be misleading
To find a local farmer’s market near you, check out http://www.localharvest.org/.