Unless you have done your research before, chances are you’ve heard the terms “cage-free” and “free-range” but don’t really know what they mean. They both sound like they could mean the exact same thing, but they don’t. There are some major differences between both options and we are about to explain them to you.
|Eggs come from hens that simply aren’t caged
|Eggs come from hens that have some sort of access to the outdoors
|Hens have unlimited access to food and fresh water but don’t have access to the outdoors
|Outdoor space could be a fenced-in area
Cage-free is a term regulated by the USDA. It simply means that these eggs come from hens that aren’t (you guessed it) caged. These hens can roam freely in an enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water but do not have any access to the outdoors.
Free-range, on the other hand, which is another USDA-regulated term, means that the eggs come from hens that have some sort of access to the outdoors. Although this sounds like a great life for these hens, it doesn’t mean they get to roam around outdoors all day. There is no specific standard regarding how long these animals get to be outside for or what their outside space should look like. This means that Food Alliance Certified free-range eggs come from birds that have access to natural daylight or a vegetation-covered area for at least eight hours a day, and each hen should have at least 1.23 square feet of outdoor space to be able to nest, perch, and dust bathe. While the American Humane Certified program states each hen should have at least 21.8 square feet of outdoor space, the Certified Humane Program states free-range birds should have at least 2 square feet of outdoor space they can access for at least six hours every day.
Cage-Free VS Free-Range
While these terms might sound like synonyms, they have different meanings. Cage-free eggs come from hens that aren’t caged. On the other hand, free-range eggs come from birds that have some sort of outdoor access. How much outdoors time each hen gets and what their outside area looks like depends on each certification program.