I just wanted to do a quick demonstration between the free-range pastured eggs on our farm and eggs from the local supermarket.
There are two different issues involved. The first is the age of the egg. In the picture above you can see that the white of the egg on the right is nearly perfectly round and more tightly contained. That tells us it was more recently laid (it was laid sometime this week, the other was purchased yesterday–I don’t know when it was laid). The store egg is clearly not as fresh though it is still edible of course. In the water test of freshness it would touch the bottom but be standing up to some degree.
The second issue is content of the egg, primarily the yolk. According to Mother Earth News free-range eggs have:
It is important not to get sucked into paying for something at the store that you think is free range, but is not. Some of the labels you see are “Organic”, “Cage free”, “Free range”, “Pastured”, or some combination of these.
“Organic” is a good thing- it means the chicken has not been fed hormones or antibiotics, and the feed it eats was organically raised. However, it does not address the living conditions of the chicken. It still could be a tightly-caged bird. (We cannot advertise our eggs as organic. Our chickens are not given antibiotics or hormones, but we don’t use organic grain in the winter. It’s a matter of expense.)
“Cage free” and “Free range” are used interchangeably at times. It means the chicken is not confined to a cage. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean that you won’t see the hen living on a dirt or concrete floor with 1000 of her closest friends. “Cage free” tends to be inside non-cage confinement and “free range” outdoors, but again they can be penned in overcrowded conditions and still have this name.
“Pastured” means the chicken is fed on, or at least supplemented with, a pasture. Eating grass and bugs is what gives egg yolks that lovely orange color. Pastured chickens may still be penned, but they are definitely outside on grass.
The ideal is to get your eggs from a farm you can visit, so you know the conditions the chickens are living in.