What does it mean?: How to read egg labels (17) cheat sheet

What does it mean?: How to read egg labels (17) cheat sheet

How to read egg labels

There are so many egg labels (label terms) that we’re not quite sure what they actually mean. Do you know how to read egg labels? Are those are actually healthier than ordinary eggs?

Don’t be fooled by misleading food labeling terms. Many of the sounds-good egg label terms mean little to your benefits.

These are the egg labels you often see on the egg carton at stores. Be a wise consumer by learning how to read egg labels – I’m here to help you to become the one.

Animal Welfare Approved

The Animal Welfare Approved label means that they’re raised with access to outside. This food label is actually legit, in the absence of regulations for the term “pastured. It’s also the only program that prohibits beak trimming.

Certified Humane

The Certified Humane label guarantees that hens are raised cage-free, with enough space to roam around. This may not always mean that they’re raised outside unless the words “free-range” or “pasture” also appear on the package.

These terms mean that the farm is adhering to defined outdoor standards, though there is no legal definition or minimum agreed welfare standard for the humane

This label is not to be confused with American Humane Certified. This label permits the use of larger cages and doesn’t require any access to the outdoors unless eggs are also labeled with free-range or pasture.

Unless you choose food that has independent third-party verification according to high-welfare standards,
you’re probably still buying industrially farmed animal products. That’s why you need to know how to read egg labels.


This means anything and doesn’t any official designation. It’s simply used to make you feel “healthier” so that they can charge you more. Another deceptive egg label term.


Although fertile eggs are considered a delicacy in some cultures, there is no health benefit to them compared with unfertilized eggs.

“Free-range”,“Cage-free”, “Free-roaming”

Conventional egg-laying hens live in battery cages: cramped mesh cells that prevent hens from ever stretching their wings, nesting, or doing nothing but laying eggs.

Unfortunately, many of those claims like “cage-free” are not true. The food label regulations aren’t restricted as you wish, and egg manufactures put the words like “cage-free” and “free-range” so that they can charge you more on the mass production eggs without a “cage-free” environment.

I know this sucks, but it’s the fact. However, there’re a handful of egg producers that produce eggs in old fashion ways. You can find them online and support those farms!


What makes it “kosher”? “Kosher” is a term to describe food that complies with the strict dietary standards of traditional Jewish law. However, it seems there are ways, in terms of the interpretation: the traditional version and the modern version. Let’s not go there for now.

Eggs that come from kosher fowl or fish are permitted to be called “kosher” as long as they don’t have any traces of blood in them. This stipulation means that each egg must be inspected individually. So long as they’re not cracked, almost all chicken eggs are kosher.

This is the reason why you should master how to read egg labels. Your assumptions are definitely far from the truth…


Eggs come from chickens that have been fed marigold extract to bring up the level of lutein content. Lutein is beneficial to human eye health and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration.


“Natural” only means the eggs have no artificial ingredients or colors and they’ve experienced very little processing.

“No Added Hormones”, “no-steroids”

The usage of hormones and steroids in chicken is legally prohibited in the US. So EVERY SINGLE EGG is free of hormones and steroids.

When you see those on the label, it only means “NOTHING SPECIAL”. Don’t waste your hard-earned money on it. Don’t be fooled by the egg manufactures’ misleading marketing terms.


Chicken feed sometimes contains antibiotics to prevent the chicken from sickness, and some chickens receive antibiotics injections. However, antibiotic-free eggs don’t receive any antibiotics.

Omega-3 enriched

All eggs naturally have omega-3 fatty acids. If you see that term on the label, the hens’ feed is supplemented with omega-3-rich oils such as fish oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil, and algae oil. 

In fact, Omega-3-enriched feed is not inherently healthy for humans. It is probably a sign that the hens lived indoors, without access to the natural sources of omega-3s like any other mass-produced egg-laying hens.

Like “vegetarian hen”, it has nothing to do with hen welfare.


You see this advice, too: “Make sure to get the certified organic ones”. This is debatable, too.

Requirements developed by the USDA

  • Organic eggs come from chickens that have been fed foods free of pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers. They are fed an organic and all-vegetarian diet*.
  • The hens must also be given access to the outdoors year-round.

Is organic healthier than ordinary mass-production one? Recent research finds organic eggs to have more micronutrients than conventional eggs. However,
many of the egg farms that actually care about chicken wellness and their production practices in more natural manners don’t get the certification due to the high cost for obtaining the certification.

So I got to say this is questionable. It’s up to you.


Eggs from chickens are allowed to roam free outside, eating plants and insects (their natural food) along with some commercial feed. It can increase the nutrients in the eggs, including protein and higher omega-3 fatty acids.

Certified Humane pasture-raised eggs require 2.5 acres for every 1,000 birds (108 square feet per bird).

Though it sounds promising, the label ‘pasture-raised’ is unfortunately unregulated and without uniform standards.
Make sure they’re Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved, too.

“Vegetarian-fed” Hens, “no animal by-products”

Vegetarian-fed hens don’t make any sense because chickens are omnivores by nature: grains, seeds, insects, worms, and crickets, you name it. Chickens eat anything!

The hens’ feed is entirely vegetarian: it is free of animal byproducts (defined as not suitable for humans) and usually composed of grains, soy, and seeds. This diet ensures that chickens aren’t eating poultry byproducts, which they wouldn’t normally consume. 

In fact, a vegetarian diet turns chickens to eat each other for the need for protein (It’s true). So “vegetarian-fed” chicken is far from natural or organic. Just let chickens stay being omnivores naturally.

Conclusion: Food labels aren't designed for consumers unfortunately. Food manufactures make them so difficult to understand and the regulations to protect consumers supposedly are loose at best. Like you saw above, egg label terms you see are almost meanless to your health or animal welfare. That's why it's important that you learn how to read egg labels (I mean food labels in general) so that you can make wiser choices for your food intake. 

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