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Friday, November 09, 2007

Cage Free vs Regular eggs

We go through a lot of eggs in the House of Annie, thanks to all the baking and cooking she does. We used to buy our eggs at Costco but recently have started buying them at Trader Joe's. We find that they are actually slightly cheaper by the dozen at TJ than Costco.

One night, we noticed that the "cage-free" eggs were on sale for about the same price as the regular eggs. It must have been a misprint, as the cashier at first rang them up at a higher price before we insisted a runner go back and verify the lower price. Cage-free eggs are usually 2 to 3 times more expensive than regular eggs, but we managed to get them for the lower price that night. I'm sure they changed the sale price sign soon after.

What is the whole deal with "cage-free" vs regular eggs anyway? They both come from the same chickens, but it's all about how these chickens are managed. Regular factory farms have chickens stacked tightly in small cages where they cannot move around or even stretch their wings. Cage-free chickens are allowed to roam freely inside their warehouse and are given darkened areas where they can lay their eggs in relative privacy.

Note that cage-free does not mean cruelty-free. Both cage-free and regular chickens have their beaks clipped so that they don't peck and injure each other as chickens naturally do in high-stress situations. Cage-free doesn't necessarily mean they are allowed to roam around outdoors, eat organic feed, or are anti-biotic-free. In effect, cage-free just means that producers have less chickens per square foot of warehouse than normal factory farms. Hence, the higher prices per dozen eggs.

So here is a comparison of the two. The cage-free eggs are on the left, the regular on the right. Of course, the color difference is immediately noted but there's also a viscosity difference, and a flavor difference as well. But ultimately, the real difference is in the mind of the consumer regarding the welfare of the chicken.

If you are really concerned that your eggs come from happy chickens, maybe you'd better purchase pasture-raised eggs from a small family farm (and pay much more for them) or raise your own chickens. As for me, I'll eat my eggs no matter where they spend their non-egg-laying time.


More: How to make perfect hard boiled eggs; Cute Japanese egg molds;


Anonymous said...

We used to buy eggs from Costco too, then turned to TJs when I realized I could get "better" eggs at a cheaper price. I love TJs and will miss it when I'm not in the US.

Anonymous said...

Considering how cheap factory farmed eggs are, a doubling or trebling of price isn't really that much when you consider the nutritional value of the egg. Of course, it does add up. It's worth it for flavor alone, however. We're lucky to have friends with chickens. :D