What Do Labels on Egg Cartons Mean?


Farmers are committed to offering many choices to consumers shopping for eggs. Check here for an explanation of different labels on egg cartons.

UEP Certified Regular and Cage-Free

The UEP Certified logo is an assurance that eggs originate from farms that follow responsible, science-based practices for hen health and well-being. Participating farms must meet UEP Certified guidelines on 100% of their hens through independent, third-party audits.

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Pastuerized

This term is regulated by the FDA and refers to eggs heated in their shells to temperatures just below the coagulation point to destroy pathogens. Pasteurized eggs can be beneficial for immune-compromised individuals.

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Fertile

Commercially produced eggs are laid by hens that have not mated with a rooster and therefore are not fertilized.

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Enriched with Omega-3

Regular eggs contain about 30 mgs of Omega-3 per egg, but Omega-3-enhanced eggs contain 100 mg to more than 600 mg per egg because the hens are fed a special diet of canola, linseed and flax seed. This label does not denote a housing system, and hens can live in a modern cage, cage-free or free-range environment.

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USDA Certified Organic

USDA Certified Organic eggs are produced according to specific USDA organic standards. Private and state agencies inspect and certify organic egg producers. The USDA Certified Organic program provides limited animal welfare guidelines and extends to hens living in modern cage housing, as well as cage-free and free-range environments.

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Pasture Raised

Pastured hens have access to the outdoors and graze primarily by eating grass and bugs, so they are exposed to higher levels of pathogens and predators. Typically, hens are kept in movable pens that move daily over fresh pasture. There are not specific guidelines for pasture-raised hens, and farms are not required to use third-party audits.

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Free-Range

Free-range eggs are produced on farms where hens have some access to the outdoors. Due to higher production costs and lower volume per farm, free-range eggs are generally more expensive. There are not specific guidelines for free-range egg production, and farms are not required to use third-party audits. In fact, farms that have less than 3,000 hens are not inspected by USDA or the FDA.

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American Humane Certified

Similar to the UEP Certified seal, eggs are produced on farms that follow science-based animal welfare standards. Eggs come from farms that are required to use independent, third-party audits to verify standards are met for cage-free, enriched colony and free-range/pasture environments.

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Hormone-Free

U.S. federal law requires that laying hens are never fed hormones. Whether or not the carton says so, all eggs are free from added hormones.

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Vegetarian Fed

Hens are fed a vegetarian diet and are not given supplements or additives in feed, such as calcium rich bone meal or crushed sea shell. This label does not denote a housing system, so hens that produce a vegetarian egg can live in conventional cages, cage-free or free-range environments.

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Humane Farm Animal Care

Meets the Humane Farm Animal Care program standards, which includes nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones and an environment with shelter, resting areas, and sufficient space to engage in natural behaviors.

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Label Definitions

UEP Certified Regular and Cage-Free

UEP Certified eggs are produced by hens raised on farms dedicated to responsible, science-based methods to ensure optimal hen care for both cage and cage-free housing. In order to use this logo, producers must implement the UEP Certified standards on all farms, which is verified  by third-party audits.

USDA Certified Organic

Organic eggs are produced by hens fed and housed according to the United States Department of Agriculture established organic standards.  This includes a diet consisting of ingredients grown to standards detailed within the organic program and other special requirements such as access to the outdoors. For more information on production guidelines for organic eggs, visit USDA’s National Organic Program.

American Humane Certified

The American Humane Certified logo signifies eggs are produced in layer houses that follow science-based animal welfare standards for either cage-free, enriched colony, or free-range/pasture environments. Eggs that are American Humane Certified come from layer houses that have verified program compliance through a third-party audit. For more information, visit the American Humane Certified website.

Humane Farm Animal Care

The Certified Humane logo signifies eggs are produced in layers houses that meet the Humane Farm Animal Care’s science-based animal welfare standards for either cage-free or free-range/pasture environments. Eggs that are Humane Certified come from layer houses that have verified program compliance through a third-party audit. For more information, visit Certified Humane.

Free Range

There are no uniform standards for free-range labeled eggs which are produced on farms where hens have some access to the outdoors. These eggs are usually more expensive, due to high production costs and the lower volume of eggs per farm.

Pasture-Raised

There are no uniform standards for pasture-raised labeled eggs which are produced on farms where hens have some access to the outdoors. These eggs are usually more expensive, due to high production costs and the lower volume of eggs per farm.

Pasteurized

Pasteurized eggs are regulated by the FDA. Shell eggs are heated to temperatures just below the coagulation point to destroy pathogens. This type of egg may provide benefits for immune-compromised individuals.

Enriched with Omega-3

Eggs enriched with Omega-3’s contain from 100 mg up to 600 mg of Omega-3’s, compared to the typical 30 mg in regular eggs. This is due to an enhanced diet fed to the hens during laying, often containing canola, linseed and flax seed. Omega-3 enhanced eggs are not limited to a specific housing style.

Vegetarian Fed

Vegetarian Fed eggs are produced from hens fed a vegetarian diet and are not limited to a specific housing style.  Chickens are natural omnivores, meaning they will eat foods of both animal and plant origin in less controlled environments.  Therefore, this label is typically not applicable for pasture and free range eggs.

Hormone-Free

Regardless of the label, all hens are raised without supplemental hormones.  This is required by U.S. federal law.

Fertile

Fertile eggs are eggs laid by hens who have mated with a rooster. They can be found at specialty food stores. Commercially raised eggs are not fertile.