The Organic Egg Scorecard




This winter, I bought two dozen eggs.  I'm generally content to just do without as my hens go through their winter moult, but there were a couple of times when I just needed eggs for something or other, so off I went to try to pick up something that would vaguely resemble the eggs my girls produce.

It's not easy, really.  Most of the organic eggs at my grocery store seem to be produced on large, factory farms.  It takes a lot of carton-reading to find a batch from a farm that actually lets their hens go outside.  The carton that I finally chose actually had something on the label like, "Free range.  Pastured.  All day.  Every day.  Seriously.  We just let our hens go outside and wander around.  No joke."

The eggs were surprisingly expensive–seven bucks for a dozen, maybe?–but I was willing to pay it.  I mean, it still worked out to less than a buck an egg, and an egg and a piece of toast qualifies as a meal around here.  So the money's no problem–it's just a matter of finding real eggs from real hens to get to really spend their days in the real outdoors.

Here's one solution–the Cornucopia Institute has published an organic egg scorecard.  Sure enough, the eggs I'd suspected of being organic-but-probably-industrial actually are.  So go check that out, and watch their video, too:




  1. I found this very dismaying, to say the least. All the organic egg producers I have seen in stores here are on the bottom of that list. Now I feel like the only place I can buy organic eggs that actually treat their chickens properly is at the local farmer’s market- which isn’t open year-round.

  2. I also allow my chickens their winter rest, though I actually had a biological clock expert I was interviewing yell at me, “Dim light on chickens! Greatest agricultural invention EVER.”

    But my girls are already laying again surprisingly well, as the days are starting to lengthen. Well enough that we had Eggs Benedict for breakfast on Sunday.

    Nobody’s eggs are as nice as mine, since my hens get every delicious kitchen scrap in the house. When I’m forced to buy eggs, it’s gotta be the farmer’s market. Supermarket eggs, even organic ones, are just weird, fragile, and smelly. Of course those hens are not treated properly. You can see it in the egg.

  3. I’m very lucky in that there’s a local co-op which offers free-range local eggs—although it’s literally potluck, since they buy from VERY local backyard egg producers. Recycled egg cartons, mix of sizes and shell colors…it’s about as low-tech as you can get. Very handy when it’s not farmer’s market season, though, and I’ve yet to get an egg that wasn’t tasty!

    When farmer’s market season is in full swing, though, what we line up for are duck eggs. A duck egg omelet is a beautiful thing.

  4. Thank you for posting this. I, too, have been suspicious of the organic supermarket eggs for some time and will share The Cornucopia Institute’s study. Luckily we have Ranch Foods here, an independent grocery store/ranching enterprise where we are now doing most of our shopping. We can buy pastured beef, chicken, pork (and many other foods locally grown). The pastured eggs are the real deal, delicious, orange-yolked; we even get a double-yolked egg in almost every carton! (I think there must be some correlation between happy chickens and double yolks.) At $6.00 it’s a bargain for a high-level protein farmed in a humane way. The meat we buy is flavorful, nutritious and satisfying. Ultimately, it takes knowing the real cost of real food and voting with your dollar to support these excellent farms.

  5. My girls quit laying pretty early on last year and we had to buy store bought a few times as well. I am always skeptical about labels, particularly those claiming to be organic. We are really fortunate to have our own source. Thanks for sharing the video and Cornucopia link.

  6. Free range means a lot of things to a lot of people. I’ve been told the pens my chickens are in when not out in the yard would be considered free ranging by some. On the other hand, I’ve heard (on chicken forums)that free range means uncooped 24/7 with no supplemental feed, only what they can forage.

    Organic just means pesticide and gmo free feed.

  7. I long for the days when my Grandma ( and later my Mom) had her own backyard flock of “Dominickers”, running around loose occasionally, eating bugs & weeds & what-not. Best eggs ever. The best I can find these days is a pale shadow – in every possible way – to those.

    Local rules don’t explicitly say “no chickens”, but the guidelines for keeping them make it impossible. Otherwise I’d have a few hens of my own. And I have a hard time getting to the few farmer’s markets that offer eggs around here.

  8. I have found that the next best thing to farmers markets for finding organic eggs is to connect with people around my area that may have several to a few dozen hens. Here in Portland we can have up to 3 hens so it isn’t too hard to find someone with eggs to purchase.

  9. I’ve been thinking for some time now about setting up a chicken coup and having a few hens of my own. I’ve been doing some research on this and have almost decided I can sure add to the egg business some quality eggs. I am so tired of these eggs that have all this added stuff. I want the old fashion deep yellow yolk in my egg 🙂

  10. I have plebian taste buds when it comes to eggs. Organic or factory. They all seem to taste the same. Maybe if I did a taste test of two over-easy-egss one organic and one not I could tell the difference.

  11. @ tibs – if you had an egg from a truly homegrown, free-range, foraging chicken, you’d see and taste the difference. For one, they actually have a flavor. My husband thought eggs were merely vehicles for things like cheese or veggies or salsa until he had one from my Mom’s hens, over-easy. It’s so hard to find anything similar now and he gets a little wistful thinking about it.

  12. Is there an app that people can use to scan the barcode of a product like organic eggs and find out if that manufacturer ethically produces that food item? If not, it’s desperately needed. I looked over that list, but it would be hard for me to remember to good brands versus the bad ones when I am actually in the store.

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