Organic eggs are eggs produced by hens that are fed special organic feed. Definition of organic depends on the agency that defines it, and this may vary from place to place. It can be said that most organic eggs usually come from chickens that are not given hormones, don’t routinely get prophylactic antibiotics (to prevent infection), and who eat feed that is grown organically. This means the feed they eat usually isn’t treated with chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
There may be other requirements for eggs to be considered organic. Many organically laid eggs also come from hens that are not confined to a small cage. Called free-range, these chickens are allowed some room to roam, and may get daily outdoor access. However, free-range hens don’t always produce organic eggs. They’re certainly a market for both free-range and organic eggs though, and the practice of raising chickens that will fit both qualifications is rapidly growing.
Shoppers at the grocery store will notice an increased price for organic eggs and even those just labeled free range. This is because hens that are not fed hormones will naturally produce fewer eggs, and free-range hens may lay some eggs on the ground, which may not be legally sold in some countries. Also, for free-range chickens, which may be part of the organic definition in some countries, more space is required to house fewer animals. Thus egg production is typically lower, and price of organic feed factors into the equation too, since it is more expensive than feeds grown that don’t meet organic standards.
Those who are proponents of organic growing methods feel that a small increase in price is well worth it to obtain organic eggs. For instance, many argue that since organic chickens may be completely grain fed, though this not always the case, they produce lower fat eggs and iron count in egg yolks of organically produced eggs may be higher. The other argument commonly made is that organic eggs lack some of the chemicals present in eggs produced by other means, and that it is impossible to estimate the harm of consuming pesticide, hormone and antibiotic residue on a regular basis. Additionally, when free-range layers produce these eggs, many argue that such animals are raised in an entirely cruelty-free manner.
This last point is not agreed upon by animal rights activists, like those belonging to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA asserts that organic may not assure cruelty-free raising, particularly in the US, and that even free-range eggs may not mean chickens are roaming about without a care in the world. Organizations like PETA feel these labels leave too many loopholes that can still be abused by animal growers, and that they hoodwink consumers into thinking they’re not supporting animal cruelty, when this is perhaps not the case.