Nellie's Free Range Eggs


What do “Cage Free” and Free Range Really Mean?

This photograph is from Summit Livestock Facilities. It is NOT a Nellie’s Free Range Farm. It is a new “Cage Free” (you heard that right) facility being built in Bouse, AZ, far from prying eyes. It is the epitome of the cynical, untruthful nature of factory farms trying to dupe consumers into buying more expensive eggs labeled “cage free.”

So, what do “Cage Free” and Free Range Really Mean? And are they regulated?

We get this question at Nellie’s Free Range Eggs a lot. And it’s no surprise. The egg aisle has more unique terms these days than Doritos has flavor varieties. Free range, cage free, pasture raised, GMO Free, Organic, Farm Fresh, All Natural, and the list goes on. Particularly, when it comes to humane standards like Cage Free and Free Range, it can be very hard to know the difference.

But, there is very significant difference between the Certified Humane Free Range standard that we use and “Cage Free” that you are seeing more and more of in the marketplace. (The quotations around Cage Free are there because, as you will see, it’s quite misleading).

Most people would reasonably assume Cage Free to mean “no cages.” But the term is not a regulated standard by the USDA or the FDA (Free Range is defined by the USDA). So egg producers are left to define it for themselves. And as you might expect, the gigantic factory farms that have always brought you conventional eggs, laid by hens imprisoned in tiny, floor-to-ceiling battery cages inside massive warehouse complexes, are now either converting these same factories to “Cage Free” or building new ones, as you can see in the photo above.

And what is going into all of these “Cage Free” egg factories? You guessed it – cages. Bigger, more complex cages than before, but cages nonetheless, with no doors to the outside. The “farm” depicted in the photo is expected to produce 1.5 million eggs per day. I’ll repeat that, 1.5 million per day!

There is no question that placing 10 giant buildings the size of aircraft hangers on a flat piece of earth in the middle of nowhere allows for some serious labor efficiency in terms of handling and processing eggs. But we don’t think consumers would consider it farming. At our small farm in New Hampshire, we deliberately stopped building new barns, becoming less efficient in the process, because we wanted instead to partner with other small farms around the country like our own.

Because we don’t want to be confused with the now misleading term Cage Free, at Nellie’s Free Range, we have adopted a Free Range standard certified by the respected Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) organization. Our floor style barns have no cages, period. There are doors every few feet, allowing one and all to come and go when the weather allows. We even have policies of our own for humane care that exceed those set by HFAC.

Please watch our video that helps explain the important difference between Certified Humane Free Range and Cage Free so you can be as informed as possible about the eggs you buy.

5 responses

  1. Judy Pillion-Morley says:

    I am very happy with Free Range chicken eggs. Nellie’s eggs seem to have a very strong shell and beautiful eggs.

  2. Jeannie DiSante says:

    Hi! Thank you for this information. I did know about the difference in labeling egg cartons and I LOVE Nellie’s Free Range eggs and have been buying them in our local “Giant” grocery store for quite a while now.

    Just wanted to let you know that the link above in this sentence “as you can see in the photo above and in this astonishing video.” is broken and will not open.

    Thanks again for raising beautiful chicks!

    Best regards,

    Jeannie DiSante

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Thanks for the feedback about the link Jeannie, we’ll check it out. Maybe they chose to remove the video, although we can’t imagine why…

      Thanks for the kind words and for supporting our small family farms!

  3. Jackie Burton says:

    Wow, that was certainly a Learning…..”Cage Free” is a very loosely termed statement…..Actually, it is misleading….So glad you made it clear….Will post on my fb page….I Love “Nellies”, and encourage all to purchase…..
    Thank You

    Jackie Burton

    1. Sarah says:

      Thanks for the support Jackie, we’re so glad to help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *