Free range: Indicates that hens have access to the outdoors, but there are no regulations on the duration or quality of their access.
Pasteurized: Eggs that have been treated with heat to eliminate salmonella bacteria and make them safe to eat raw or undercooked.
Pasture raised: This unregulated term implies that hens are raised outdoors and moved regularly in mobile hen houses to different grassy lots on the farm. This gives them access to a variety of foods found on the ground — bugs, grubs and other small creatures — as well as chicken feed.
Fertile: Hens are raised in barns that also house roosters. The term is unregulated but implies that the hens are uncaged.
Food Alliance certified: According to Food Alliance, their certification requires “Healthy and humane treatment of animals, safe and fair working conditions, soil and water conservation, pest and nutrient management, protection of wildlife habitat and other agricultural concerns.”
Animal Welfare Approved: Hens must be kept cage-free and allowed to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. Outdoor access is required at all times, and forced molting and beak cutting are prohibited. Certifies mostly family farms.
American Humane Certified: Hens must be kept uncaged, but access to the outdoors is not required. Space requirements allow for natural behaviors. Forced molting is prohibited, but beak trimming is permitted in some cases. AHC has certified about 85 percent of cage-free eggs in the United States.
United Egg Producers Certified: This certification allows hens to be caged, does not require access to the outdoors and does not prohibit beak cutting or forced molting. It does require that hens have “access to clean water and are fed several times a day.” The UEP literature suggests caged hens are safer and healthier than uncaged birds.
Certified Humane Raised and Handled: Hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and may have access to the outdoors. Includes space requirements for hens to perform natural behaviors. Forced molting is prohibited, but beak cutting is permitted.
USDA organic: Hens are kept uncaged in barns or warehouses, are allowed access to the outdoors and are fed an organic, vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides. Forced molting and beak cutting are permitted.