Eggs: free range, organic, etc
I buy the organic Land O Lakes eggs at Giant. Checking the Land O Lakes website they describe the different types of eggs that they sell. The Giants that I have been to sell most of these:
LAND O LAKES™ All-Natural Farm Fresh Eggs are produced by hens fed an all-natural, all vegetable, whole grain diet rich in corn and soy proteins with no animal fat, animal by-products, preservatives, or antibiotics.
LAND O LAKES™ Organic All-Natural Eggs are produced by cage-free hens who are fed a diet that is not only all-natural, but also 100% USDA - certified organic consisting of grains produced on land that is free from the use of toxic chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers.
LAND O LAKES™ Cage-Free All-Natural Eggs are produced by hens fed our unique all-natural diet, but also housed in a cage-free protected area where they are free to roam, perch, scratch and nest.
LAND O LAKES™ All-Natural Eggs with Omega-3 are produced by hens fed our specially formulated all-natural diet, enhanced with flax-seed oil, and other natural sources of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. As a result, each delicious egg contains 350mg of this valuable nutrient. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked with reduced risk of heart disease, and can only be acquired through diet.
Here is some information that I got from the USDA website regarding organic, cage free and free range:
In addition to the organic label, a number of other mostly
process-based labels are used on poultry and eggs. Some
of these labels are not regulated at all, while others are
regulated to a varying degree by USDA. None are regulated
as extensively as the organic label, and only organic
is required to be certified by an independent third-party.
Labels regulated by USDA, FSIS
Free Range or Free Roaming. Producers labeling
poultry as free range or free roaming must demonstrate
to USDA, FSIS that the poultry has been allowed
access to the outside. USDA regulates the label for
poultry, but not eggs. No specific amount of time
outside or stocking density is required. This label does
not require third-party certification.
A product that contains no artificial ingredient or
added color and is only minimally processed (a process
which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may
be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the
term “natural” (such as no added colorings or artificial
ingredients; minimally processed.) Unlike the organic
label, the natural label does not have to meet requirements
for feed, antibiotic use, or pasture. The label does not
require third-party certification.
Producers may include the terms “no
antibiotics added” on labels for poultry products if
they have provided sufficient documentation to USDA,
FSIS demonstrating that the animals were raised
without antibiotics. The label does not require third party
USDA does not permit the use of
hormones in poultry production. Therefore, the label “no
hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of poultry
unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal
regulations prohibit the use of hormones.” USDA does
not allow a “hormone-free” label.
Unlike birds raised for eggs, birds raised for
meat are rarely caged prior to transport. Thus, this label on
poultry products has virtually no relevance to animal
welfare. The label can be helpful to consumers when it is
placed on egg cartons, as most conventionally raised laying
hens are kept in cages; however, the label does not guarantee
that the bird had access to the outdoors. In addition,
this term is not regulated by USDA, and the label does not
require third-party certification.
The term refers to poultry management
using a modified free-range system whereby
birds are raised on pasture but provided with shelters
that can be moved by hand or tractor. Poultry is often
moved daily. Chickens can get up to 20 percent of feed
from pasture forage in these systems. This term is not
regulated by USDA, and the label does not require
USDA’s organic requirements cover every aspect of poultry and egg production. Organic poultry cannot be given growth-producing hormones (which are prohibited in conventional systems as well) or antibiotics. The animals may receive preventive medical care, such as vaccines, and dietary supplements of vitamins and minerals. They must be fed certified organic feed, free of animal byproducts, or feed on certified organic pasture if raised on a pastured system. Organic poultry and eggs must be processed in plants that are certified to process organic poultry and eggs.
Growers today use many different types of systems to raise organic poultry,
from free-range and pastured poultry to permanent poultry houses that allow
birds to access the outdoors through paddocks. All organically raised herds
and flocks must be raised separate from conventionally raised birds. Poultry
must be under continuous organic management from the second day of life;
some farmers purchase chicks from a certified organic hatchery while others
begin raising the chicks organically when they arrive on the farm. Producers
must provide living conditions that accommodate the health and natural
behavior of the animals. Animals must have access to the outdoors, shade,
exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to their species and
stage of production, but minimum levels of access have not been set. For
poultry, indoor confinement must be temporary and justified due to weather,
stage of production, health and safety of animal, and risks to soil or water
quality. Growers are not allowed to cage organic poultry. Specific rules do
not apply to stocking density or flock size. Instead, a certifier evaluates each
farm’s system to decide whether density is appropriate.
Sadly, free range can mean there is a window in the shed or the hens are given an extra square foot of space.
For those able to go outside they are usu still fed indoors providing no incentive for the hens to leave the sheds anyway.
Best to really research the company on how the eggs are produced so you know for sure the hens are treated humanely, if that's your objective.