Eggs, Glorious Eggs
The plethora of “sustainability” labels on eggs these days can overwhelm even the most savvy shopper. Who can really distinguish between free-range, cage-free, organic, pastured, etc, and then determine whether it is worth paying a premium for any of them? How do we decide to balance price, health, and humane treatment in making these decisions? I’ll leave it up to the researchers and journalists at these sources to provide the exhaustive detail on all of these labels but will also take a moment to encourage you to contemplate your options carefully.
The vast majority of laying hens in the Unites States are housed in seriously cramped battery cages that prevent them from spreading their wings and exhibiting a whole host of other natural behaviors in a way that is rather heartbreaking to contemplate. There is a significant movement growing to outlaw these production practices in favor of cage-free operations. Though not perfect by any means, cage-free is a starting point toward sustainability, especially when taking into account that most (though not all) cage-free operations are officially certified with labels such as Certified Humane; American Humane Certified; and Animal Welfare Approved (there are others but some may not be considered meaningful. See here for a great chart explaining the details.)
What is the perfect solution? If available and affordable, buying pastured eggs from a local farmer, either directly through a CSA, at a farmers’ market, or at a reputable grocery store. And learning how to ask the right questions when faced with options.