Eggs can be found in almost every kitchen pantry. While the process of purchasing eggs seems to be simple enough, not everyone understands the exact meaning of egg claims and certification details often present on egg cartons. Checking out the certification while purchasing eggs is important to gain a level of assurance regarding the quality of the eggs and how the hens laying them are treated. Different certifications may indicate diverse aspects of the egg production process and are usually verified by third-party organizations. Eggs sold by Hillandale Farms, for instance, are United Egg Producers (UEP) and Cage Free: American Humane certified.
Hillandale Farms discusses the implications of certain certifications and claims related to eggs
As Passover and Easter come nearer, many baskets and dinner tables across the United States are likely to be soon laden with eggs, no matter whether one celebrates these occasions or not. When shopping for eggs, it is common to find production claims like “cage-free,” “free-range,” or “pasture-raised” on the egg cartons. Egg claims and certifications are majorly focused on the living conditions of the hens and how eggs are produced.
Cage-free claim basically refers to hens living outside of cages and are “free to roam.” The free-range claim is also similar, and refers to conditions where hens are given proper space to roam and should have access to the outdoors.
There are also many third-party certifiers that one may find on egg cartons, such as:
- United States Department of Agriculture: The term “cage-free” is known to be regulated by the USDA. It implies that hens should be able to roam in indoor facilities, have access to adequate fresh water and food, and be able to exhibit natural behaviors like scratching and roosting. They must also have access to litter and protection from predators. However, one must note that USDA grade A and grade AA says nothing about the living conditions of the hen.
- United Egg Producers (UEP): As the USDA regulation is so general, various other organizations chose to step in with their very own, in-house certifications that go further than USDA. UEP certified eggs ideally originate from independent farms, and are certified by third party based on the animal welfare standards of the UEP Certified Program. Many leading egg farmers in the US, including Hillandale Farms, abide by the UEP standards.
- Certified Human program: Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is a non-profit certification group that sets high standards for rearing hens under their Certified Humane program. This program includes specifications about multiple aspects of egg farming, starting from space requirements and ventilation, to litter and light. Certified Human third-party certified label provides a guarantee that the egg farmers having this certification do strictly adhere to the standards of humane care, including cage-free conditions.
- American Humane Certified: The American Humane certification is another popular third-party certification that is administered by the American Humane Society. The eggs labeled American Humane Certified are raised cage-free.
Keeping an eye out for certifications when buying eggs allows consumers to make more informed choices about the products they purchase and consume. It also helps them to have greater confidence in the quality of the eggs they choose to buy, and ensure that the hens laying those eggs are well treated.