Labels on Egg Cartons and What They All Mean

It can be a bit confusing buying eggs these days, lots of different labels, and prices too! Each label indicates something different about the way the eggs were produced, here’s a breakdown of what the most common labels mean.

Organic: In order for eggs to be labeled as “organic,” the hens that laid them must be raised according to certain standards. These standards include being fed an organic diet, having access to the outdoors, and being raised without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

Cage-Free: This label means that the hens that laid the eggs were not raised in traditional battery cages, which are small wire cages stacked on each other. However, it does not necessarily mean that the hens had access to the outdoors or were raised according to any specific standards.

Free-Range: This label indicates that the hens had some access to the outdoors. However, the amount of time they are allowed to spend outside, and the size and quality of the outdoor space can vary.

Pasture-Raised: This label indicates that the hens had access to the outdoors and were able to roam and forage on a pasture.

Omega-3 Enriched: This label indicates that the hens were given feed that is supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids, which can contribute to the nutritional content of the eggs.

Vegetarian-Fed: This label indicates that the hens were not given any animal byproducts in their feed and were only given a vegetarian diet.

No Hormones: This label indicates that the hens were not given any hormones to boost their egg production. This is not a requirement for all egg producers, as the use of hormones is already prohibited in egg-laying hens in the United States.

No Antibiotics: This label indicates that the hens were not given any antibiotics, either to prevent or treat illness. This is not a requirement for all egg producers, as the use of antibiotics is regulated by the FDA.

Battery: This term refers to the traditional method of raising hens for their eggs, in which they are kept in small, crowded wire cages. This method is now illegal in some countries but is still used in others. (Most commonly found on the grocery shelf at the lowest price).

It’s important to note that these labels are not necessarily regulated in the same way in all countries, so the conditions in which the hens were raised may vary depending on where the eggs were produced.

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Chicken Terms

A Glossary of Basic Chicken Terms

If you’re new to raising chickens here are the most frequently used terms by chicken keepers everywhere. I hope it helps you better understand and care for your birds.

  • Bantam:  Diminutive breed of domestic fowl.
  • Boiler:  Chicken 6 to 9 months old.
  • Broiler:  Cockerel of 2 to 3 pounds at 8 to 12 weeks old.
  • Cock:  Male chicken, or rooster.
  • Cockerel:  Young rooster under 1 year old.
  • Fryer:  Chicken 3 to 4 pounds at 12 to 14 weeks old.
  • Hen:  Female chicken.
  • Point of Lay Pullet:  Young female chicken just about to lay, about 5 months old.
  • Pullet:  Young female chicken under 1 year old.
  • Roaster:  Chicken 4 to 6 pounds and over 12 to 14 weeks old.
  • Rooster:  Male chicken, also called a cock.
  • Sexed Chicks:  Separated by sex, pullets and cockerels.
  • Straight Run:  Mix of pullets and cockerels.
  • Broody:  When the hen has an urge to sit on her eggs to try and hatch them.
  • Clutch:  Batch of eggs in a nest.
  • Comb: Red muscle on the head of chickens.
  • Coop:  Place where your poultry live is referred to as a poultry coop.
  • Crest:  Bunch of feathers on the head of certain breeds.
  • Crop:  Pre-digestive system of the chicken. Food collects at the base of the neck and is softened before going through the digestion process.
  • Cushion:  Area of the back in front of the tail on the female chicken.
  • Down:  Soft fine feathers on chicks.
  • Droppings:  Chicken manure.
  • Dust bath: To bathe in dry dust or sand, and it helps remove any mites from their feathers.
  • Flight feathers:  Biggest primary feathers on the final half of the wing.
  • Free range: To allow chickens to roam pasture freely.
  • Frizzle:  Feathers that curl rather than laying flat also a breed of chicken.
  • Gizzard:  Internal organ of the chicken that collects grit and grinds food down.
  • Grit: A grinding agent used in digestion, added to a chickens diet if not allowed to free range.
  • Growers:  Growing chickens between 9 and 20 weeks.
  • Hackles:  Cape feathers of a rooster.
  • Hybrid:  Genetically bred from two different breeds of chicken for good characteristics from both.
  • Impaction:  Blockage of a body passage or cavity, such as the crop.
  • Keel:  Breast bone – which resembles the keel of a boat.
  • Layers:  Mature female chickens kept for egg production.
  • Mash:  Mixture of wet or dry coarse ground feed.
  • Moult:  Yearly shedding and replacement of poultry feathers.
  • Muff:  Feathers sticking out from both sides of the face under the beak of certain breeds such as Ameraucana.
  • Nest Box:  Secluded safe place where a hen feels she can leave her eggs.
  • Nest Egg:  Wooden or plastic egg put in the nest box to encourage hens to lay there.
  • Pecking order:  Social ranking of a flock.
  • Pellets:  Poultry pellets are formed from a fine mash bonded together.
  • Poultry:  Domestic fowls, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, or geese, raised for meat or eggs.
  • Pure breed:  Not been crossed with another chicken breed is known as a pure bred.
  • Saddle:  Area of the back in front of the tail on the male.
  • Spurs:  Protrusions on the legs of roosters.
  • Utility:  Bred for meat or chickens bred for eggs rather than poultry shows.
  • Vent:  Orifice at the rear end of the chicken through which both eggs and feces are passed.
  • Wattles:  Fleshy appendages hanging either side of the lower beak of poultry.
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