I don’t understand the difference between all the different types of
eggs…free range, cage free, happy chicken, organic, Omega 3, etc…..Help!
Free range doesn’t actually mean much of anything. It’s unfortunate, but hens housed in a warehouse, not kept in cages, and given access to the outside through a door at the end of the warehouse that they never travel through are free range. The only difference between cage free eggs and free range eggs is that the cage free hens don’t have the door at the end of the warehouse, but since none of the hens in the other warehouse really take advantage of the door, it’s not a big deal.
Vegetarian diet eggs are preferable to eggs from hens fed chicken meal and fish meal and beef byproducts, though a naturally-raised hen is omnivorous and can get a decent percentage of her diet from bugs and grubs in the ground. So, if you get your eggs from a farm where the hens really are cage free and free range, don’t expect that they will have led a vegetarian life (but do expect that they haven’t been fed industrial byproducts).
Organic eggs may also be raised in a warehouse. The feed may contain some industrial byproducts including fish meal, so long as it is certified organic feed.
With so many shady labeling schemes by large egg distributors, that’s why I recommend that, if possible, you get eggs that are identified by the farm where the chickens were raised. Even better would be to know about the farm and the conditions that the hens are raised in, but at the very least if you are getting farm-fresh eggs from a store, you have indication that a) the eggs are being raised in a fairly small operation and b) the product is good enough for the store to stock it. Not only that, but you have the farm’s contact information so that you can, if you desire, call them up and ask them about where their birds are kept.
In Pittsburgh, eggs from several individual farms are available on a regular basis at the East End Food Co-Op, though the selection of farms they stock tends to vary. Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, Whole Foods, and other locations have eggs from Champion Chicks in Donegal, PA, where the eggs come from a flock of 500 and are gathered by hand. Also, if you ever go on drives outside of Pittsburgh into the rural areas of PA, WV, and OH, it is fairly common to see signs advertising eggs at individual farms. If you happen to pass by such a location and you have the time to stop, I highly recommend that you do.
The Omega-3 eggs are shown to have higher concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids than a standard egg does. These fatty acids have been shown to perhaps reduce the risk of some types of heart disease. If you are seeking to reduce your risk of heart disease, though, it seems to me that eggs should be at the periphery of a wider range of dietary choices.