Fed with organic feed (no additives, animal byproducts or GMO), these hens live cage free with access to the outside. According to Wikipedia, “Organic egg producers cannot use antibiotics except during an infectious outbreak. Only natural molting can occur within the flock; forced molting is not allowed. (Molting is forced by starving the hen for weeks at a time). Organic certification also means maintaining of high animal welfare standards, which prohibit any cutting off of beaks or wings without anesthesia, methods common until today in (the) poultry industry.” Hens cannot be given growth hormones and the USDA inspects the farm before they are allowed to use the “organic label.”
(Please note that organic certifications and regulations vary from country to country and province to province, so check on the certification requirements for your area).
Free-Range (or Cage-Free) Eggs
A new study from Mother Earth News
proves that pasture-raised chickens produce superior eggs with less cholesterol, less saturated fat, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times the vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene, 2/3 more vitamin A, and 4-6 times as much vitamin D!
Unfortunately, while free-range chickens raised for meat must meet specific standards, there is no legal definition for free–range eggs and there are no standards. Free-range doesn't necessarily mean pasture raised. Free-range hens are supposed to have access to the outside. But there is no regulation as to how long they are outside, how much room they are to be given, or about any of the standards that deem them “free-range.” Some reports claim many free-range chickens are caged. Plus these birds can still be given antibiotics, animal byproducts, and food from GMO crops. They may live in an overcrowded situation and may or may not have access to nests and perches. In other words, they are probably not what you thought they were.
This is one of those terms that sound like
the hens are having the time of their life, but in fact, they are usually kept indoors in large barns. They are not allowed to go outside and it may be overcrowded.
Antibiotic Free Eggs
According to the USDA, this label can be used on beef and poultry products, provided that the producer supplies “sufficient documentation … that the animals were raised without antibiotics.”