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PIP'S TIP'S - Eggsposing Egg Carton Labels

Pips Tips


Hey Egg Eaters…. bit of long tip from me this week, but it is interesting to get some understanding around what all those labels do really mean and is something that I do get asked about…. I often see people standing staring blankly at the egg section at that super place with a rather confused look on their face.  I generally try to offer some help and of course tell them about an amazing little local business called The Egg Project….my Mum says I was never too shy to talk about something I was passionate about.

So anyway, the egg section in the supermarket can be a confusing place and I often think this is done on purpose. In the past, before you knew about us and what we did, you would have likely at some stage been this above-mentioned person, scratching your head thinking how can the selection be so vast and all these cartons having differing labels … seemingly endless, what do they all really mean?

Phrases like "Omega-3," "Farm Fresh," and "No Hormones" line the boxes, purposefully vague. And what's the difference between "Caged" “Barn Raised” and "Colony" or between "Cage-Free" and "Free-Range"?  What does “Organic” mean….and why are they so expensive?

I’m going to try help you clarify what all of this means…and make it simple.  I have picked out the different phrases that I see on the egg cartons and I’m going to explain what they mean. 

Quickly I will go over the types of farming, but I do plan to go into this deeper next week.

Cage – these ladies live their lives fully in wire cage with no laying box, no perches and have 5-15 flatmates without room to spread their wings.

Colony – This is a bigger cage, can have up to 50 flatmates, they have a little perch and darkened laying box and a textile scratch pad so they can pretend they are outside.

Cage Free – these ladies are otherwise known a Barn

Barn – these ladies live with up to 50,000 others in a big shed, they don’t get to go outside.

Free Range – these ladies also have a big shed or barn but have access to outside.  The type of access they have can vary greatly depending on what farm.

So, let’s start with the terms that we see on the egg cartons… “All Natural” though it sounds appealing, this phrase tells you nothing about the egg production process or even the egg. It's basically stating the obvious: that the egg is, in fact, a real egg from a real hen. Don't let it distract you from other important carton lingo — "All-Natural" is pure marketing.

“Farm Fresh” is also a marketing tactic.  This term is also for marketing purposes only, and it doesn't really convey any information.   Sure, the words "farm" and "fresh" sound appetising when placed next to each other. But "Farm Fresh" on a carton simply means you're getting good old-fashioned eggs from a hen who lived on a commercial farm. Nothing ground-breaking here.

The Term “Organic”- in NZ now mostly only the true Certified Organic producers will be using this word, they will also have a Certifier logo on the carton, (we don’t as it’s just another cost and we manually stamp or cartons still but if you want to see our Certification, please ask) we are Asure Quality Certified, and the other is BioGro.  What this means is the hens must be Free Range or Pasture raised and live on a certified organic farm.  They must also only be fed on feed that was grown by Certified Organic farmers.  No chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, chemical sprays, or toxic products etc are allow in any step of the process.  We test our soil and water rigorously as well to make sure.  The ingredients to make the feed for these ladies is 47% more expensive than non-organic due to the cost of certification and the farming process. (Just a little note here…. our whole farm is certified organic, its just the feed that differs between our two types of eggs)

Danni looks after all of this for us as our Compliance Manager and is an independent auditor for other producers.  She has an extensive background and Food Science degree from Massey.  Not just a delivery driver this one, even though she is brilliant at it!

“No Hormones” this label is not unique in any way considering no egg laying hens in NZ is allowed to received hormones in any way shape or form, this was banned many decades ago so completely irrelevant. 

“Omega-3 Enriched” – this is a type of fatty acid that has been proven to help with our heart and brain health. Eggs can be fortified with 2 types of Omega-3 fatty acid called DHA (found in fish, seaweed, and algae) or ALA (found in flaxseed and walnuts).  The way that there eggs become enriched in Omega-3 is flaxseed is added to their feed.  For the extra added cost that is usually charged for these eggs, and the minimum amount of Omega-3 that they provide, I suggest you spend your money buying fish or walnuts 😊

Now occasionally but not often in NZ, you will see eggs that claim to be vegetarian…. this has always confused me as chickens are not vegetarian in the slightest…they are like us, omnivores.  They eat bugs and worms and plants.  These cartons that are labelled “Vegetarian-Fed Chickens’ or “Vegetarian Diet”.  Chickens need protein, without it, they can fall ill, and this leads to behavioural issues such as feather plucking and bullying.  It takes a healthy chicken to produce a healthy egg…. speaks for itself!

If an egg carton is labelled "Pasture-Raised" it means that the hens spent their lives — or portions of them — on a pasture, or with access to a pasture.    

There are some guidelines in NZ about packaging and labelling requirements by MPI, you can check them out here.

I was going to use photos of packaging that I took at our local supermarkets, but Brian told me I was not allowed too lol…… I did suggest crossing out the producer’s name but he still thought probably not a good idea.  I guess we don’t need me getting taken out by the egg mafia….it could exist you know 😊