What do these terms really mean?
Eggs that are labeled organic and have the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
organic seal on the carton were produced following the USDA National Organic Program standards.
More information may be found on the website:
United Egg Producers Certified
Eggs with the United Egg Producers (UEP) Certified seal on the carton have been produced following voluntary guidelines for scientific animal welfare standards to improve the care and handling of hens.
The guidelines were developed by an independent scientific panel and adopted by members of the egg industry through the United Egg Producers organization.
Egg producers participating in the United Egg Producers Certified program are audited annually by a third party organization.
For more information see http://www.uepcertified.com/
Eggs are from hens that live outdoors or have access to the outdoors. Modifications for seasonal variations are acceptable. The nutrient content of eggs from free-range hens is the same as for those from hens housed in production facilities with cages.
Cage-free eggs are from hens that are not housed in cages. Usually, cage-free hens live on the floor of a barn or poultry house. The nutrient content of eggs from cage-free hens is the same as for those from hens housed in production facilities with cages.
Egg laying hens are not given hormones. Some egg cartons say that the eggs are hormone free, however, this is true for all eggs in commercial egg production in the United States.
Some egg cartons say that the hens were not given antibiotics. This statement is true for all eggs produced in the United States, even if it is not specified on the carton. Hens may be given antibiotics for therapeutic purposes when ill; however, when they are ill, hens typically stop laying eggs.
Almost all eggs sold as shell eggs are non-fertile. However some cultures consider fertile eggs a delicacy.
Fertile eggs are eggs that when incubated, may develop into chicks.
A fertile egg label indicates that a rooster is present and potentially mated with a hen during egg production. The technology is not yet available to determine which eggs are fertile.
In a carton labeled as fertile eggs, some eggs may be fertile and some will not be fertile. Even if an egg has been fertilized, no embryo will develop if the egg is refrigerated. Fertile eggs have a slightly shorter shelf life than non-fertile shell eggs, although the nutrient composition is the same.