Have you ever been confused about the different labels and codes on the eggs in the supermarket? Well here is a full guide that will explain all of the different things you need to know about your eggs.
British eggs methods of production
Here is the difference between Organic, Free-range, barn and caged eggs and what it means to the chickens. The good thing to note is that most eggs are now free-range. According to Sainsbury’s website, all of the eggs sold in their stores are free-range. Unfortunately not all free-range chickens are kept in good conditions as well and even though they have access to outdoors, in reality they spend most of their time indoors.
There are a lot of supermarkets that still offer eggs from barn and caged chickens. These birds are kept in absolutely horrifying conditions. Conventional battery cages were banned in the EU in 2012 and were replaced with “enriched colony cages”. However these cages still physically restrict the chickens and are not approved by RSPCA. Never, buy such eggs. By buying these products, you support this type of farming.
Obviously this goes without saying but always aim to buy organic eggs as they have the highest welfare standards which means that your eggs are coming from chickens that haven’t been fed with GMO food and they haven’t been heavily treated with antibiotics.
|Chickens are fed organically and are free-range. They are given access to outdoors earlier in their life than standard free-range eggs.||There should be at least 4 sq. m. of ground available per chicken and they must have access to open-air space during the day.||Birds that are kept indoors with no access to open-air space but not kept in cages. 1 sq.m. of floor space available for every 9 hens.||Chickens are kept indoors in “enriched” colony cages. 1 cage contains between 40 and 80 birds.|
Egg labels explained
On the box of your eggs you may find a mixture of the logos below. Each association allows the use of their logo only on foods that meet their standards. They have different regulations, some have higher welfare standards but most eggs have the standard labels that guarantee the minimum requirements.
Red Tractor and The Lion Mark
You will find these two logos on most of the eggs in the supermarkets. They guarantee that the eggs are laid in Britain. These logos often appear on free-range eggs but not necessarily all eggs with these labels are free-range. Both generally only ensure minimum legislative requirements. Red tractor association certifies for certain hygiene and food safety standards and some welfare standards as well but overall they don’t address some serious welfare issues.
Aim to buy products with this label rather than the two above. This is RSPCA’s assurance scheme that has higher animal welfare standards and the eggs and meat that come from these farms have been produced in a better environment. The RSPC’s have a range of requirements for farmers and assure animals have a much greater space, better lighting and other requirements related to their food, water and the slaughter process. You will not find this label on eggs coming from caged chickens.
You can find the Soil association logo on organic eggs and meat only. This is another good label too look out for. Their welfare standards are much higher than the standard industry practices ensuring free-range access, better shelter and bedding and other benefits.
The EU Organic logo
You can find this logo on organic eggs and many other organic packaged products but not so often on meat. This is what the logo guarantees: farm animals are freely grazing in the open-air and they are treated according to enhanced animal welfare conditions. No GMO. There are strict limitations to the use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics.
Did you know that one of the ways of recognising if your eggs are truly organic is the colour of the yolk? Once boiled organic eggs’ yolks usually have a very bright yellow colour rather than dark yellow or orange. This is because organic chickens are fed an organic diet which affects the colour of the yolks. These are the eggs that I buy from my local store, they have the Freedom food and the EU organic logo and the yolks are always bright yellow when boiled: