Cage-free, Free-Range, Organic… What Does It All Mean?

Eggs are getting to be much pricier.  Most of that is an issue of treatment of delicious chickens.  In the U.S., the free range label is ridiculous.  According to Wikipedia – “the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no standards, and allows egg producers to freely label any egg as a free-range egg.[1]”  Here is a picture of “free-range” hens.“Cage-free” means just this.  They’re not in cages.  

“Free-range” typically means there is a door to the outside, which may or may not be unlocked.  The hens access to the outdoors can be limited until a certain age, and just because they have access after a certain period doesn’t mean they ever actually go outside.

“Organic” is slightly better, in that the hens are not fed animal byproducts or antibiotics.

***See more specific guidelines below

If you can get eggs from a farmer’s market, that’s your most humane option.

Organic free range eggs are typically 4.79 a dozen or $0.40 an egg.

Regular eggs are about 1.39 a dozen $0.12 an egg. 

I am on a budget, but I buy organic free-range.  Those are going to be the costs calculated into my recipes because I can’t bring myself to buy “caged” eggs when I think of the chickens.

Won’t someone please think of the chickens?

Can you freeze eggs?

From what I understand, eggs can be frozen, though I generally don’t. Sometimes a recipe will call for just the white, or just the yolk. It’s then possible to freeze the other portion for later use. Ice cube trays would be good for that, I imagine.

However, I always always forget that I have egg parts frozen before I’m making a meringue or custard, so they’re not thawed, and I can’t delay my gratification, so I just say, “Oh, next time I’ll use them.” Then I never do. So they stay there taking up precious, precious freezer space. If you think you can avoid this, freeze it, baby. Don’t freeze whole eggs in the shell. I’m pretty sure bad things will happen when the liquid in there expands.If you’re going to freeze, here some tips I’ve come across.

Egg whites – Whites don’t suffer much from freezing. Just give them enough time to thaw in the fridge before using.  Mine took 2 days to thaw in the fridge, but whipped up into stiff peaks as if nothing ever happened.

Egg yolks – Yolks tend to become gelatinous with freezing. Best to mix them with a little salt or sugar before freezing.  Be careful to label because you wouldn’t want to confuse those two.

Whole eggs – crack em’, whip em’, freeze ’em like that. Eggs don’t last long enough in my house for this, and frankly, I’m not willing to devote the freezer space to it. My ice cream needs room to stretch out.

Guidelines for Egg Labeling


Cage Free (source: Wikipedia)
The Laying Hens Directive stipulates that from 1 January 2007 (1 January 2002 for newly-built or rebuilt systems), non-cage systems must provide the following:
  • A maximum stocking density of 9 birds/m2 of “usable” space (units in production on or before 3 August 1999 may continue with a stocking density up to 12 birds/m2 until 31 December 2011)
  • If more than one level is used, a height of at least 45 cm between the levels
  • One nest for every seven hens (or 1m2 of nest space for every 120 hens if group nests are used)
  • Litter (e.g., wood shavings) covering at least one-third of the floor surface, providing at least 250 cm2 of littered area per hen
  • 1 5-cm of perching space per hen.
Free-Range (source: Wikipedia)

In addition to cage-free requirements, free-range systems must also provide the following:

  • One hectare of outdoor range for every 2500 hens (equivalent to 4m2 per hen; at least 2.5 m2 per hen must be available at any one time if rotation of the outdoor range is practiced)
  • Continuous access during the day to this open-air range, which must be “mainly covered with vegetation” (In the U.S., this continuous access means a door, which may or may not be unlocked)
  • Several popholes extending along the entire length of the building, providing at least 2m of opening for every 1000 hens.

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