Eggs 101: Getting back to basics

— Local Farmers Explain Egg Terminology —

DENVER – In trying to lead healthier, leaner lifestyles many people have become much more interested in what exactly goes into making their food, including their eggs. It’s normal for people to want to know what they’re putting in their bodies and how it can affect them. Because there are so many different terms for eggs such as free range, organic and nutrient enhanced, it can be difficult to know what it all means. The Colorado Egg Producers (CEP) Association would like to take this opportunity to help sort through all of the egg-related terminology.

“We understand that it’s important for people to know exactly what they are eating and where it comes from,” said Vince Ruscitti, a Colorado Egg farmer and member of CEP. “Eggs are produced in a number of different ways depending on a variety of factors, and Colorado egg farmers are committed to doing so in the safest way possible. As an association, we were the first state to develop and implement an Animal Care Doctrine. Each of our producers and members has signed this Doctrine and are committed to the best possible care of chickens based on scientific principles and animal husbandry standards.”

Most eggs Coloradans buy come from conventional or caged housing where the hens are raised in cages in a barn with continuous access to feed and water. The Egg Nutrition Center ( ) offers a guide for consumers explaining exactly how different types of eggs are labeled. Here’s a look at some of the most common terms used to identify eggs:

  • Antibiotic-free: This term can be misleading as all eggs produced in the U.S., even if not specified on the egg carton, are antibiotic-free.
  • Brown eggs: Eggs that are laid by red-brown feathered breeds of hens. The nutrient content of brown eggs is the same as white eggs. Nutrient content has nothing to do with shell color.
  • Cage-free/free-roaming: Eggs laid by hens at indoor floor operations, sometimes called free roaming. The hens may roam in a building, room or open area, usually in a barn or poultry house, and have unlimited access to fresh food and water, while some may also forage for food if they are allowed outdoors. Cage-free systems vary and include barn-raised and free-range hens, both of which have shelter that helps protect against predators. Both types are produced under common handling and care practices, which provide floor space, nest space and perches. Depending on the farm, these housing systems may or may not have an automated egg collection system.
  • Free-range eggs: Eggs produced by hens that have access to the outdoors in accordance with weather, environment or state laws. The birds have continuous access to fresh food and water and may forage for wild plants and insects. They are also provided floor space, nesting space, and perches.
  • Natural: The United States Department of Agriculture identifies all shell eggs as natural.
  • Nutrient-enhanced eggs: Eggs that are produced by hens fed a special diet that may include things like flax seed, marine algae or fish oils.
  • Organic eggs: eggs that are laid by cage-free, free-roaming hens that are raised on certified organic feed and have access to the outdoors. The hens’ feed is grown without most synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers, and 100 percent of the agricultural ingredients must be certified organic. Antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited (although these will not be found in any shell eggs).
  • Pasteurized eggs: Eggs heated to temperatures just below the coagulation point to destroy pathogens. These eggs are recommended for recipes that call for raw eggs or for people susceptible to illness who prefer runny eggs. Pasteurized eggs must be kept refrigerated.
  • Pastured eggs: pastured eggs originate from hens to free to roam and forage on a maintained pasture area. The vegetarian diet may be supplemented with grain. The hens are moved to various pasture areas to maintain vegetation.
  • Vegetarian eggs: Produced by hens fed a vegetarian diet.

To learn more facts and information about eggs, you can find CEP on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, or visit . You can also learn more about eggs by ordering a complimentary copy of the Egg Reader from the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture at

CEP is a membership organization representing seven farms throughout Colorado. CEP is committed to doing what’s right for its community, as illustrated by the regular donation of thousands of eggs to food banks throughout the state. Egg farmers throughout Colorado pride themselves on providing eggs to Coloradans. We are also proud to offer consumers the choice between cage, cage-free eggs, organic, nutrient enhanced, brown and white eggs. You can find locally produced, fresh, wholesome and safe eggs in the dairy case of your favorite Colorado supermarkets.

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