When considering the purchase of eggs for your operation, there are a number of available options. America’s egg farmers produce eggs from multiple production systems – conventional, cage-free, free-range and organic. Here are some facts about the egg production process that you may want to consider:
• Conventional Cage eggs are produced from hens living in communal cage systems. There are multiple cage systems, depending upon the size of the birds, and the facility as well. Farmers that utilize the cage system participate in handling and care practices as well. While providing hens with access to fresh food and water, cages also work as nesting space. Cage systems help protect against predators.
• Cage-free eggs are laid by hens living on indoor floor operations, sometimes called free-roaming hens. The hens are usually housed in a barn or poultry house, and have unlimited access to fresh food and water, while some may also forage if they are allowed outdoors. Cage-free systems vary and include barn-raised and free-range hens, both of which have shelter that helps protect against predators. Both types are produced under common handling and care practices, which provides floor space, nest space, and perches.
• Free-range eggs are produced by hens raised outdoors or that have access to the outdoors, as weather permits. Shelter is provided during inclement weather and to help protect from predators. In addition to having continuous access to fresh food and water, these hens may forage for wild plants and insects and are sometimes referred to as pasture-fed hens.
• Organic eggs are produced according to national USDA organic standards related to methods, practices and substances used in producing and handling crops, livestock and processed agricultural products. Organic eggs are produced by hens fed rations having ingredients that were grown without most conventional pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or commercial fertilizers. Antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited (growth hormones are also prohibited in conventional systems as well). All organic systems are cage-free.