Since eggs have been in the news so much lately I thought I would decode egg lingo for everyone.
Free-range = The USDA requires that chickens that lay "free-range" eggs have access to the outdoors. However, there is no stipulation to the quality of the environment or the amount of time outdoors. A factory farm can label its eggs as being "free-range" if there is a door leading to the outdoors even if the chickens never go outdoors. There are some small farms that do really allow their chickens to roam outdoors but there is no guarantee that is what you are getting unless you can talk to the farmer.
Cage-free = There is no legal definition of cage-free eggs. Some farmers do give "cage-free" chickens enough room to stretch their wings but again, you don't know for sure unless you talk to the farmer.
Organic = Organic chickens (and therefore their eggs) must be fed an organic diet, typically non-gmo organic grain. The chickens must not be given hormones and can only have antibiotics to treat illness (not prevent). The chickens are also free-range, although you don't know if the chickens ever really go outside.
Vegetarian = The chickens are fed a 100% vegetarian diet. In my opinion this is not the optimum diet for chickens. Chickens like to eat grubs and worms (after all they are birds) but these foods are excluded on a vegetarian diet.
Pastured = These chickens are raised outdoors on a natural diet, the way chickens are suppose to live.
I would like to buy pastured eggs but have not found an affordable source. My farmer's market sells them for $6/dozen. We buy them occasionally but we go through 2-3 dozen a week so it is not realistic to spend so much money on eggs. I do not like the definitions of free-range, cage-free, and vegetarian as I think they are either full of loop holes or just plain wrong so I usually buy "regular" eggs. The "regular" eggs are certainly nothing special but I'm not convinced that the other more expensive grocery store eggs are worth it either.
What type of eggs do you buy?