What Does It Mean When An Egg Carton Is Labeled 'Farm Fresh'?

Pasture-raised, free-range, organic, natural, no added hormones (wait, aren't those the same thing?) — the endless egg aisle is filled with a plethora of labels. With high egg prices, you may just grab the cheapest thing possible. However, it never hurts to decipher the labels so you can get to the bottom of what convoluted terms like "farm fresh" mean.

Thanks to the sharp rise in cost and excessive options, finding the right egg carton means striking a balance between price and quality. Wherever you land on the graph, you'll still want more bang for your buck. While other terms like "no added hormones" and "pasture-raised" make it easy to infer their true meaning, farm fresh seems a little more open-ended. The label invokes images of eggs freshly picked from a cozy barn, delivered to your door along with fresh bottles of milk. This isn't always the reality.

The term "farm" appears to be subjective in this case — the eggs can come from hens that roamed the plains on a farm or that were kept in cages. While it may not be your typical definition of what a farm is, the term is more of a marketing ploy than anything. It creates a pleasant image in the mind of the consumer without having to abide by an immovable standard. It could be completely plausible that the eggs came from a farm, but, unfortunately, there's no proper way of telling.

What are the best eggs to buy?

Again, "best" could be considered a subjective word. In this case, the best is an equilibrium between quality, cost, and ethics. For something that adheres to all three, pasture-raised eggs tend to meet the requirements. There's a general consensus that the eggs that come from hens who have been allowed to roam pastures and peck on the food found within them are better than other options. Science certainly agrees.

Although they are not regulated by the USDA, when accompanied by an "Animal Welfare Approved" or "Certified Humane" label, you can assure that the hens were treated with care. With better treatment, the eggs are healthier, containing more vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids than other eggs. The best egg brands will ensure that their hens have plenty of green space to roam around in, with an abundance of bugs and grass to eat. What the chickens eat is a major indication of the highest quality eggs. Aside from their strict diet and quality of living, a plain smell, high letter grade, and pristine shell are signs that an egg carton is worth the price.