What is the Difference Between Free Range and Cage Free Eggs

The main difference between free range and cage free eggs is that hens that produce free range eggs have some access to outdoors while hens that produce cage free eggs may not have access to outdoors.

Free range and cage free eggs are two egg labels that indicate the condition of the hens that produce these eggs. Most of us consider that both these are better than caged eggs, which are produced by hens confined to cages. Although the terms free range and cage free sound good, there are no uniform definitions for these labels.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Free Range Eggs
     – Definition, Hens, Standards
2. What are Cage Free Eggs
     – Definition, Hens, Standards
3. What are the Similarities Between Free Range and Cage Free Eggs
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Free Range and Cage Free Eggs
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Free Range Eggs, Cage Free Eggs, Eggs, HensDifference Between Free Range and Cage Free Eggs - Comparison Summary

What are Free Range Eggs

Free-range eggs are eggs taken from hens that have the freedom to roam and some access to outdoor space. Many egg sellers name their eggs as free-range eggs. However, there are no uniform standards to define what comprises free-range eggs. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) defines free-range eggs as eggs that “must come from hens housed in a building, room, or area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their laying cycle. The outdoor area may be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material”.  Therefore, the hens must have access to freshwater and food and must have access to outdoors whenever they want during their laying cycle.

Main Difference - Free Range vs Cage Free Eggs

These definitions do not specify how much space hens should have, so different farms use different housing systems. In comparison to hens raised in a cage, hens in a free-range environment have a much better quality of life. Hens in a free-range environment can go outside and perform their natural behaviours such as walking, foraging and dust-bathing.

What are Cage-Free Eggs

As the name suggests, cage-free eggs refer to eggs produced by hens that are not confined to cages. Hens that lay these eggs are free to walk around the hen house, to lay eggs in nests, and to perch on roosts.  Although this label indicates that hens are not caged, they may be housed inside barns and kept indoors all the time.

Difference Between Free Range and Cage Free Eggs

Since there are no uniform definitions for this label, hens that produce cage-free eggs can include hens that have access to green pastures as well as hens that have no access to outdoors. So, this is the basic difference between free-range eggs and cage-free eggs. That is: hens that produce free-range eggs may have some access to outside while the hens that produce cage-free eggs may not have access to outdoors.  

Similarities Between Free-Range and Cage-Free Eggs

  • Both free-range and cage-free labels are considered to be better than caged eggs since hens that lay caged eggs are confined to small cages, where they can’t walk around, or even fully open their wings.
  • However, there are no uniform definitions for these two labels.
  • In both labels, hens must have access to freshwater and food.

Difference Between Free Range and Cage Free Eggs

Definition

Free-range eggs refer to eggs produced by hens that have the freedom to roam and some access to outdoor space while cage-free eggs refer to eggs produced by hens that are not confined to cages.

Access to Outdoors

Hens that produce free-range eggs have some access to outdoors while hens that produce cage-free eggs may not have access to outdoors.

Conclusion

Free-range and cage-free eggs are two egg labels that indicate the condition of the hens that produce these eggs. The main difference between free range and cage free eggs is that hens that produce free-range eggs have some access to outdoors while hens that produce cage-free eggs may not have access to outdoors.

Reference:

1. Watson, Molly. “Learn What Cage-Free Eggs Means and What It Doesn’t.” The Spruce Eats, Available here.
2. “Free-Range Eggs: What to Know.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, Available here.
3. “USDA Grademarked Product Label Submission Checklist.” US Department of Agriculture, Available here.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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