What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Well, in the commercial egg industry, the answer is easy: the egg comes first. And the chicken, ah, it’s just a means to the egg.

What this means for us as consumers is that we need to do our homework if we want to eat healthy eggs from healthy chickens and not just blindly trust the egg carton label.

That’d be a big mistake. The reason being that there actually isn’t much regulation in the egg industry so chicken farmers can pretty much get away with murder, and they do.

So here at Health Coach Institute, we want to break it down for you so that the next time you’re pushing your shopping cart, through the grocery store aisle, past the dozens and dozens of eggs, you are INFORMED.

When it comes to deciphering labels, you, the consumer, have to take charge of your health because no one else is going to do it for you.

Know that just because it says “cage free,” it doesn’t mean the chickens are frolicking in the sunshine on prairie grass. C’mon, we know better than to think that’s true by now. There are tons of articles and documentaries about CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and abused and battered hens in factory farm battery cages.

It’s up to us to become educated and informed consumers and to read between the label lines and to know what the various terms actually mean in reality.

There’s a shocking illustration on Vital Farms’ website that says:
“How much space does a happy hen need?” It shows a diagram of the amount of space hens in different categories are allocated.

It is shocking.

According to Vital Farms:
Caged hens live their entire lives in a 67 square inch cage in a crowded factory.
Cage-free hens live their entire lives in a 1 square foot range in a crowded factory.
-Free-range hens live their entire lives in a 2 square foot range in a crowded factory.
Pasture raised hens live their lives in a 108 square foot range outdoors on grass.

Do the math. Don’t let the marketing lingo on the box fool you. Educate yourself to make the healthiest choice for your body and your brain.

Ok, so imagine yourself in that aisle of eggs at the store and you are overwhelmed with dozens of terms and varying prices. You probably know that conventional eggs are the cheapest, and also the least healthy for you, so you avoid those. You’ve probably heard by now that pastured eggs are all the rage but they’re only for people with a lotta money ‘cos let’s face it they can cost over $8 a dozen.

So, what do you do? You probably go for something in the middle, right? The free-range or organic eggs. Those are good, ethical terms right?


Just because it says free-range doesn’t mean the hens roam free in the great outdoors. Far from it. And just because it says organic, it doesn’t mean the hens eat any natural diet or ever even go outdoors.

Understanding Egg Grades

So we’ve broken it down for you so you can spend less time at the supermarket wondering what’s what and more time frying, baking or boiling them pastured eggs!

  • Grade-A

Ignore this. It’s the egg farmers’ way of getting their eggs graded by the USDA to charge higher prices. It doesn’t really mean a whole lot.

  • Cage-Free

Thousands of chickens housed together in a dark warehouse. Not as confined as battery hens in cages, but still, who wants to live their entire lives in a crowded factory?

  • Free-Range

Thousands of chickens housed together in a warehouse but they have “access” to the outdoors. This is blatantly misleading because in such a crowded space, they most likely can never make their way outdoors even if they wanted to. And having been born and bred under these conditions, they likely aren’t even aware the outdoors exists.

  • Organic

This simply means (as long as it has a USDA Certified Organic) label that the chickens eat a veggie, organic diet and aren’t given antibiotics or animal byproducts to eat. What we don’t always hear is these chickens live the same lives as cage-free and free-range chickens except that their diet is healthier—even though it’s still not even close to their natural diet.

  • Omega-3 enhanced

This is a blatant marketing ploy because these chickens (that live in the same cramped warehouses as described above) eat a poor diet, which results in less omega-3 in them, which is why they get supplements in their feed such as flaxseed. It’s like stripping the vitamins out of oats and then claiming they are packed with vitamins because they are factory-added.

  • All-Natural / Farm Fresh

Don’t be fooled by these terms. They dupe you into believing the product is healthy. If it says nothing else on the label to indicate its stature in the egg world, they are likely battery chicken eggs. These chickens live in minute cages and are fed animal byproducts, hormones and genetically modified corn and soy. Like a chicken zoo but worse.

  • Pastured or pasture-raised

These terms refer to chickens living the happy, outdoor lives they were born to live. They run around on fresh pastures (the farmers rotate them so the pastures can regenerate,) eating healthy grain, plants and insects. Still, only opt for those that are “Animal Welfare Approved”. This is WAY better than “Certified Humane,” which unfortunately, doesn’t live up to its name.

Plus, compared with conventional caged eggs, pastured eggs have:  

  •  1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 X more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 X more vitamin E
  • 7 X more beta carotene• 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 X more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 X more vitamin E
  • 7 X more beta carotene

So, the bottom line is get egg-ucated!

Where can you buy pastured eggs?

Good question! The Vital Farms brand mentioned above can be found in many different supermarkets from Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and Natural Grocers to QFC, Walmart, Raley’s and Target! The best place, by far, to get your eggs are local farmers markets. But if there isn’t one in your area, the supermarkets above work well too.

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