It can be egghausting figuring out what egg type is best for you. We've decoded the cartons to give you a complete guide to what's what in the world of eggs, including local egg farmers that you can support.
Typically, a hen laying conventional eggs will be sharing it's two-square-foot battery cage with three other hens, and the barn they are housed in will be home to several thousand birds. Due to living in highly-populated areas, the hens are more prone to injuries and illness. To prevent wide-spread problems like disease, the birds receive daily antibiotics which can often lead to nasties within the eggs produced.
Similar to hens laying conventional eggs, free-run hens still live within barns but are allowed to roam the floor and are not confined to life in a cage. However, the hens still live in densely packed areas with no outdoor access and are given antibiotics like the conventionally raised hens.
By law, free-range hens must have outdoor access (weather permitting) with a roost area of at least two-square-feet per hen. Free-range hens are not allowed antibiotics or additional hormones. Free-range eggs are sometimes called “antibiotic-free” or “naturally-raised” so look out for these phrases when buying.
Pastured hens are kept in cages, however the cages are moved to different grassy areas each day so the hens are able to forage for some of their food. Each hen must have at least two-square-feet to roam and are not allowed to be fed antibiotics in their supplemental feed.
Organic hens must eat organic feed that doesn't contain any hormones, pesticides or genetically modified organisms from day one. They must also have outdoor access year-round and when the weather does not allow this, they must be allocated at least two-square-feet of space and be fed only organic sprouted grains.
What's the deal with refrigerating eggs?
As discussed by the NY Times, North Americans love refrigeration. Egg producers with more than 3,000 hens must wash their eggs using soap, enzymes or chlorine with the idea of controlling salmonella. This process removes a protective cuticle which means eggs must then be chilled to keep them from going bad.
In Europe, the EU prohibits the washing of eggs and believes that preserving the protective cuticle is most important. This means eggs can be kept out of the fridge and at room-temperature, making them perfect for cooking with.
Who are local egg farmers I can support in BC?
Blue Sky Ranch, Vancouver - Having started life in a family garden in Vancouver, Blue Sky Ranch is now a large and growing 'farmily' collective, providing pasture-raised meat and eggs for you to feel good about.
Rabbit River Farms, Richmond - a family-run organic egg producer from BC who pride themselves on pioneering local sustainable agriculture and focusing on providing the best quality of life for their hens.
Farmer Ben's Eggs, Cowichan Valley - the largest egg producer on Vancouver Island, this family certainly knows a thing or two about eggs. Farmer Ben's produce fresh eggs daily, which are available all across the Island.
Raven Hill Herb Farm, Mt. Newton Valley - Ravenhill Herb Farm is a locally-run farm overlooking the Saanich Inlet of the Salish Sea. As stewards of a 10-acre west coast oasis, they are dedicated to growing food organically for their family and community and sharing knowledge of sustainable living and permaculture practices.
For more information on all things egg, check out the Egg Farmers website.