Let’s face it, there’s a lot of confusion out there about eggs. Are they healthy? Are they not? Didn’t we hear they were high in cholesterol or something? I mean, if they were so good for you, why would “deviled” eggs be a thing?

We get it. Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years, but we’re here to tell you that they can be a healthy addition to your family’s diet if you know what to look for.  Don’t let misinformation or confusing egg labels stop you. We’ve decoded the jargon, so you’ll know what you’re really buying, which makes you one smart chick.

The biggest myth that still lingers around eggs is that the cholesterol in the yolks is somehow related to an increased risk of heart disease. That was the old way of thinking, and new research shows otherwise. According to the Harvard School of Public Health: 

“While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol—and so may weakly affect blood cholesterol levels—eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate.” In other words, moderate egg consumption has no real impact on blood cholesterol in healthy individuals.

Eggs may have suffered from a bad PR campaign in the past, but doctors and nutritionists are putting them back on the menu…and so can you. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? When it comes to selecting the best eggs for your family, you want to start by considering the chickens they came from. It makes sense doesn’t it? Good stuff in equals good stuff out. Therefore, happy, healthy chickens are going to lay the best quality eggs.

This is why we always suggest looking for pasture-raised eggs that come from hens that have been allowed to move, see the sunshine, and eat the type of omnivorous diet they are designed to eat.  These types of eggs are going to give you a lot more in the way of nutrition than regular factory farmed eggs.  Let’s look at the stats, pastured eggs have:

  • 66% more Vitamin A
  • 200% more omega-3
  • 300% more vitamin E²
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When you look at the label on a carton of eggs, how do you know what kind of hens they came from? Remember, we are on the look-out for happy and healthy hens.  

Here’s the Beenke breakdown of what those confusing egg labels actually mean:

Farm Fresh:

You might think this means that a nice local farmer rises at dawn to harvest a dozen eggs and puts them into the carton, which is then rushed to your local store. But what does it actually mean?  “It literally means nothing,” says Paul Shapiro, vice president of the Humane Society of the U.S. and an expert on commercial egg production. He says the term is probably meant to conjure up a favorable image in the consumer’s mind, but it has no substance whatsoever.


This term is also basically meaningless.  It may sound like the chickens are fed an all natural diet, but the term applies to any food that isn’t processed. Hopefully you’re looking at a real egg from some kind of chicken (as opposed to a Cadbury cream egg) so this label isn’t helping you at all.


This one sounds good, right?  It conjures up images of chickens happily wandering around a barn pecking at corn kernels… but in reality, this term has no legal definition. While the hens may not be in a “cage”, they are often crammed by the thousands into barns or warehouses. Also not helpful.

No Added Hormones:

OK, this one must be good, who wants hormones?  Sorry, again this label is misleading and useless. It’s illegal to give hormones to poultry, and no large-scale farms in the U.S. do so. So this is akin to putting a label on a cereal box that says, “no toxic waste.” While it may be true, it’s not helpful.

Omega-3 Enriched:

Omega-3 is good, so Omega-3 enriched eggs must better than regular eggs, right? Probably not. This label means that the hens have been feed flax, and therefore their eggs contain a little more omega-3 than a regular egg. The problem is, this type of omega-3 is 8 to 33 times less absorbable than animal-based omega-3 (EPA and DHA) so you really don’t get much benefit from it.**  Plus, this label says nothing about how the hens are raised.


These must be the happy hens, they’ve got “free” right in the title. Nope. This label is not controlled by the USDA, so egg producers can pretty much use it however they see fit. Some of these hens might see a little time outdoors, but others may be crammed in a warehouse. You just don’t know.

Certified Organic:

Now you are getting to labeling that actually means something. The hens are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of the usual animal by-products, antibiotics and pesticides. Which is a good thing. The organic label, however, doesn’t tell you anything about the living conditions of the hens, they may still be confined to cages or warehouses.

Food Alliance Certified:

This label means the hens are cage-free and given access to outdoors. The hens must also be able to perform natural chicken behaviors. We are moving up on the happiness scale.


This one is the gold standard for happy hens. Pasture-raised birds spend most of their life outdoors, with a fair amount of space plus access to a barn. Many are able to eat their natural omnivorous diet (which may or may not be organic*).

*If you are concerned with the quality of feed (as in you want to be sure it’s free of pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, etc.) then you may want to look for BOTH certified organic and pastured eggs to get the best of both worlds.

*A Little-Known Egg Tip*

You can tell your eggs are free range or pastured by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you’re getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet. The Cornucopia Institute offers a helpful organic egg scorecard that rates egg manufacturers based on 22 criteria that are important for organic consumers.

Egg Label Take-Aways:

  • Look for eggs that are “pastured” and “organic”.  These labels are going to get you closest to happy, healthy hens.
  • Eggs from hens that get to roam around outside contain more nutrition than the eggs from caged or warehoused hens.
  • “Cage-free” or “free-range” on an egg carton does not necessarily mean the chickens were allowed to roam.
  • The cholesterol in egg yolks does not translate to higher cholesterol in the blood.

Understanding egg labels gives you the power to make smarter buying decisions for your family. Here’s to healthy eating!


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