Possible to know if eggs are free range or not?

Is there any way a layman can tell if the eggs he is buying are genuine or not?

Free range eggs are more likely to have a darker orange-ish yolk instead of pale yellow. But it’s not an accurate indicator. The darker color comes from the broader range of food sources including grass and insects, while caged chickens are mostly raised entirely on commercial feed. But free range is not the same as organic, and free range chickens may be heavily fed with non-organic commerical feed. There are probably commercial feeds that are designed to produce darker yolks also.

I see eggactly what you did there.

Yes, that’s what I heard, they can alter the color of the yolk to fool the customer they are buying free range. I know that in Australia there is a strong preference for brown eggs, so they add a coloring agent into the food to get this effect, but that’s another story.
I’m wondering if lab tests can determine the difference between free range or cage bred.

Don’t crack me up.

The breed mostly commonly kept in battery egg farms is Isa Browns, and they lay brown eggs. My cite is my three Isa Browns, which eat the same diet as my Golden Wyandotte and my Ancona, and lay brown eggs vs their light brown and white eggs, respectively. :slight_smile:

Find a local store that has a relationship with local farmers. They should carry eggs they consider the most ethical even if not organic. I don’t find organic necessary, as long as the animals are truly pastured and cared for in a way I find acceptable. One real indicator is whether you can find the farmer’s contact information and arrange a visit. I get eggs from two places, a little organic grocer who carries Milo’s eggs, and from my co-op farmer who carries eggs and chicken from Gunthorp Farms.

It will probably take a little research on your part, but it’s doable. I’ve found it eye-opening and I’m happy I looked into things and made the decisions I have as far as where my animal products come from.

Cecil on “cage free/free range”.

Free range is a very watered down requirement. As per Food Inc and Omnivore’s Dilemma, the chickens are usually allowed access to a grassy space about the size of a big dining table, through a little swinging trap door that they never learned to use. It’s there, but the dumb birds don’t use it, so they stay in their cages pecking each other to death out of insanity. Free range is usually a feel-good marketing tool, not really anything having to do with chicken welfare.

The Cornucopia Institute (a really gung-ho, some might say militant, consumer food group) rates various egg brands based on their chicken friendliness:

They’re a somewhat more trustworthy (meaning a bit less biased) source than, say, PETA, but still nothing beats “Go to the farm and take a look” if it really bothers you.

Yes, the term “free range” means only that the chicken has access to, the outdoors - not that they are outdoors, and certainly not that they are happily running around the barn, like grandma’s did.

Your diet is the output of factories. Get used to it.

It’s perfectly possible to get “proper” free range eggs, but you will pay more for them, and you’ll likely have to go to a farm shop or farmer’s market.

Yes it is. It’s also possible to go to a farmer’s market and pay more for factory (battery) eggs. The question the OP had was, is there any way to tell the difference. So far he is not seeing any.

They start milling around aimlessly on your kitchen counter?

There’s nothing much new about the deception of “free range” eggs - anyone who’s read Lenny Bruce’s autobiography knows that he was doctoring factory eggs to look “farm fresh” sometime in the 1940s. He did so by spattering a little chicken guano on every dozen. When he ran out of chicken crap, he had to mix it a little with horse shit.

And that’s what “free range” chicken is, folks: mostly marketing horseshit.

Well, OK. I meant go to a farm shop where you can see the chickens on the farm, or to a farmer’s market where you know the farm in question. Obviously that’s not always practicable for city dwellers (although it is certainly possible in my area and I live just 35 miles from central London).

I can’t imagine there would be any way to tell the difference just by looking at the eggs. Although anecdotally I do find that supermarket eggs have much thinner, more fragile shells than proper free-range ones. Presumably a factor of diet?

In some cities, you can keep chickens yourself, if you’d like. They’re really not much trouble or expense: Give them fresh water every day, fill up the feed bin every month or so, and collect the eggs. Then you can be absolutely sure about the conditions they’re in.

And I don’t know if maybe the factory-farm breeds are more stupid, but my mom’s coop has a doggy door to the outside run, too, and all of her hens have figured out how to use it, and spend plenty of time out in it when the weather’s nice.

I’d suspect that the factory chickens are bred and fed to produce eggs faster, resulting in thinner shells. I’ve noticed this also, maybe someone can confirm and will know the reason if it’s true.

I can get free-range eggs from my neighbor. I know they’re free-range because they’re free-ranging in my back yard.

Quite a coincidence. The smallest continent and the smallest US state both have a preference for brown eggs (Rhode Island Reds produce brown eggs). Plus we’re both islands.

When you’re raising chickens, you should be giving them calcium supplements with their feed (ground oyster shells work for this), so they can produce strong shells. It wouldn’t surprise me if the big producers skimp on this.

And “adding a coloring agent to the food” isn’t necessarily as nefarious as it sounds. One commonly used additive for this purpose is marigold flowers, which chickens quite enjoy.

“Skimp” is almost certainly the wrong word.

“Calculate dietary calcium to the last gram per ton, with the the aim of reducing egg breakage in shipment to an acceptable level of customer complaint but no more,” yes.