The Confusion: What egg to buy?

I visited a very old friend of mine a while ago. She is a very busy mom with a newborn and a 2-year-old son. She used to be health conscious and an exercise addict before. Since she became a mom, she is a diet analyzer as well. As soon as I complained about finding a topic to write a blog post, she started throwing questions at me and demanding answers. After almost 2-3 weeks one of her questions is still stuck with me:

What is the difference between Free-range and Free-run egg?

Ever since she asked me this question, every time I go to a supermarket, I pay attention to people buying eggs. People usually go for omega 3 rich eggs or vegetarian-fed eggs. It is interesting how, conveniently, we disassociate ourselves from animal cruelty.
The reality of today’s egg industry sends shiver down my spine every time I think about it. Imagine 5-8 birds, confined to a small cube. Visualize that they have no beaks so they cannot peck each other. Now if you turn around you see these cages and cubes everywhere, no window, no light, nothing at all. I know this is a very disturbing picture. That is why we need to know which birds are most humanely raised to support animal rights, the least.
This is the way I like to put different chickens in my practice:

Happy bird Vs. Happier bird Vs. Happiest bird vs. Queen bird

[It is important to note here that what you are about to read next, are all non-certified claims. What I mean is, using these labels does not guarantee that the birds are raised the way indicated, as there is no regulating body]

Cage-Free egg: (non-certified)

This is what I call the Happy bird. There are no little cubes and cages involved. Birds are kept in a windowless barn freely. There is no guarantee what they feed on and what medication they receive. They are still over-crowded but there are some nest boxes for them to lay eggs.

Free-run egg:

This is my Happier Bird category. Again there are no cages. There is an open concept barn and the chickens can run around without having access to outdoors. They might still be overcrowded.

Free-Range eggs:

These are the Happiest birds in my opinion. Depending on weather conditions, they can go outside to walk around. There is a barn that they can travel in and out of.

Organic Eggs:

These are my Queen birds. These are the birds that are raised in a certified organic farm that passed animal welfare standards. This means no growth hormone, no vaccine and no antibiotic. They are fed on organic foods that are toxin and pesticide free.

So now you are probably wondering: what is Certified Organic?

These are the labels you have to get familiar with, in Canada. If you see these labels the products are guaranteed that they follow the protocols and standards they claim.

For more information go to: http://cfhs.ca/farm/humane_labelling_in_canada

Canada Organic (http://www.cog.ca/uploads/standards.pdf)

The products are at least 95% organic They provide a generous space allowance for animals Animals have access to outdoors weather permitting They utilize natural breeding methods No hormones and antibiotics for animals No GMO or pesticide containing feed ***Use of the Canada Organic Logo is voluntary

BC SPCA Certified (http://goo.gl/wEu5IW):

Animals are pain and distress free No confinement or cages They provide a generous space allowance There is access to outdoors No growth hormones or antibiotics ***Look for the red barn label

Certified Local sustainable (http://landfoodpeople.ca)

They preserve the native habitat Sustainable production is important They reduce greenhouse gas and On-farm energy use They eliminate pesticides and fertilizers Animal welfare is the key (outdoor access, minimum space allowance and a minimum time or weight allowance between birth and weaning, no hormones, No GMO, no antibiotics)

Bottom Line is:

• Go with your intuition about which type of egg/meat your prefer for your family
• To find a list of farmer’s markets with ethically raised egg/meat go to:


When buying eggs:

• Always ensure that the egg shell is intact and there is no crack to avoid bacterial contamination
• Wash the eggs with soap when you get home and put them in refrigerator as soon as possible
• Cook the egg well to avoid salmonella poisoning
• If you have elderly or toddlers or you use raw eggs for cooking, always go for pasteurized egg (eggs that are treated with heat to kill bacteria and viruses without cooking the egg)
I hope this post solves a bit of dilemma and confusion you face in grocery stores. Happy Shopping!

Dr. Z
Picture taken from: Dr. Z after a long work day, grocery shopping at Metro (Toronto, ON)

Author resumes no liability for incorrect information or any action reader decides to take based on the information on this blog post. This blog post is only author’s personal input on the topic and by no means entails any medical advice.