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Egg Labels

Cage Free: The label "cage free" does not mean there are any standards or auditing mechanisms behind it. Hens laying eggs labeled as "cage free" are uncaged inside barns or warehouses. However, they usually do not have access to the outdoors. Cage free hens have the ability to engage in some of their natural behaviors such as walking, spreading their wings and nesting. Currently, there is no information regarding what cage free hens can be fed. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. Debeaking is also permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Certified Humane: The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses. However, they may be kept indoors at all times. The birds must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density and number of perches and nesting boxes. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Certified Humane is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care.

Certified Organic: The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, and are required to have outdoor access. They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. Debeaking is also permitted. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing.

Fertile: These eggs were laid by hens who lived with roosters. They were probably not caged.

Free Range: While the USDA has not yet defined standards for "free range" egg production. Usually, free range egg-laying hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have outdoor access. They can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Free Roaming: Also known as "free range," the USDA has defined this claim for some poultry products, but there are no standards in "free roaming" egg production. There is no third-party auditing.

Natural: This label has no relevance to animal welfare.

Omega-3 Enriched: This label claim has no relevance to animal welfare.

United Egg Producers Certified [note: this was formerly called "Animal Care Certified"]: A majority of the U.S. egg industry complies with this voluntary program. This program permits routine cruel and inhumane factory farm practices. By 2008, hens laying these eggs will be allowed 67 square inches of cage space per bird. This area is less than a sheet of paper. The hens are confined in restrictive, barren cages and cannot perform many of their natural behaviors, including perching, nesting, foraging or fully stretching their wings. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. This is a program of the United Egg Producers.

Vegetarian-Fed: These birds are provided a more natural feed than that received by most laying hens, but this label does not have significant relevance to the animals' living conditions.

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