Medical News Today: What are the differences between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised eggs?

The sections below discuss the best egg production methods for people, hens, and the environment.

For people

There is little difference in the nutritional values of cage, cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised eggs, according to the Egg Nutrition Center.

However, there may be slight differences in the mineral content of eggs depending on the rearing environment, according to one study.

For example, the researchers found a higher magnesium content in free-range eggs, though they also found that organic eggs had a lower phosphorus and zinc content.

Beta-carotene levels are also higher in free-range eggs, according to another study. Beta-carotene is not an essential nutrient in itself, but the body converts it into vitamin A, which has many health benefits.

Learn more about the health benefits of beta-carotene here.

For hens

Animal rights organizations say that pasture-raised and free-range eggs are the best choice for hen welfare. Hens that farmers raise in such environments can go outside and have the opportunity to engage in natural behavior.

Farmers cannot engage in practices such as beak clipping, which can negatively impact hen well-being, in those that produce certified free-range or pasture-raised eggs.

Birds kept in cages tend to show fewer signs of being comfortable. Behavior such as wing flapping, stretching, body shaking, and tail wagging are all signs of a happy hen.

Observers tend to see these behaviors more in pasture-raised and free-range flocks.

For the environment

Although free-range and pasture-raised eggs are much better for the hen, they are not necessarily better for the environment.

Hens that roam around and go outside need to eat more food in order to keep warm and maintain their activity levels. Because it takes more resources to produce these eggs, they have a higher carbon footprint than caged eggs.

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