Ask Leah! The Ingles Dietitian

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There are so many different types of eggs at my Ingles store these days... can you explain what some of the labels mean like free-range... pasture-raised... and cage-free?

1 Organic - An organic label on the egg carton would mean the farm it is part of the USDA organic program and there is a specific set of guidelines about the feed for the laying hens (it must be organic feed), the use of antibiotics (if the chickens are sick and a flock has to be given antibiotics they cannot be considered organic). 

The organic standards also mandate outdoor access and prohibit constant indoor confinement except in specified situations like inclement weather and illness.

2 Free Range  - "...produced by hens housed in a building, room, or area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their laying cycle."

3 Pasture-Raised - This could be very similar to "free-range" though the term is not regulated by the USDA.

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4 Cage Free - is very similar to free range except that they would not necessarily have access the outside but would not be housed in cages.

It's important to remember that chickens can harm each other, spread diseases, contract diseases from wild birds (avian flu) and harm workers; so housing chickens in cages, or at least in houses, may be beneficial in some cases and allow for worker and poultry safety, and easy access to eggs.

Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN

Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian



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