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What are Organic Eggs?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon103218 — On Aug 11, 2010

The only sure organic product is the one you participate and watch being produced.

By anon85333 — On May 19, 2010

The eggshell color depends simply upon the breed of the hen. From this, I would deduct that organic eggs, like non-organic, can be either white or brown.

Regarding the PETA comment. I agree that, like most groups, PETA is biased. Any group that has a belief will of course 'preach' things from their own point of view which is based upon this belief.

I also believe that although a person/group may be flawed and even extreme at times, it does not mean that there is no value or solid truth to what they say.

Like a car thief who tells you not to smoke cigarettes because they are bad for you. The thief is right and may be full of information that can potentially even save your life or at least guide you to a healthier path. Basically, even if the way of life the thief himself chooses is wrong/faulted in its own ways, it by no means takes the truth out of what he is telling you regarding smoking.

Similarly, a PETA activist may live a way of life and have beliefs you completely disagree with, but this does not mean that all points or questions created by the activist are wrong and invalid. (I am not trying to say PETA activist = thief. don't completely dissect the example here. hahah)

In this case, I agree that simply because an egg is labeled free-range, it does not mean that a hen was well treated. It all depends on one's exact definition of "well treated" (the hens could be kicked around, thrown, held by the feet and shaken for no reason, etc).

If, by well treated, one is only defining the hen's living conditions (i.e. what they have access to such as a nest and the outdoors) then most certainly, free range hens are treated well!

Basically, you can't ever know certain things unless you live next to Farmer Joe and dear Mr. Joe will let you go get the eggs yourself.

What do I think? Better to choose the lesser of the *possible* evils, since you still can't be sure of it all, better to be sure of a little than nothing at all, eh?

By anon74224 — On Mar 31, 2010

PETA is extremely biased - they think eating animals and animal products is morally wrong and that everyone should be vegan. So of course they would criticize animal food production of any kind. They want people to believe that any animal products, even organic or free range, is bad and you just not eat those foods at all.

By anon67426 — On Feb 24, 2010

Can organic eggs be white as well as brownish?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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