“Cage-free” and “organic” products are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, the USDA’s is not the only organic certification within the U.S. Many states, particularly California, have their own programs and standards.
Cage-free eggs come from hens that live outside of cages–but this does not necessarily mean that they live outside. Uncaged hens move freely, but usually within a crowded barn or warehouse. Cage-free guarantees unlimited food and water, but it does not guarantee access to the outdoors. When we talk about cage-free chickens, we’re usually talking about egg-laying hens because poultry meat is rarely raised in a cage.
USDA organic eggs come from cage-free hens that do have outdoor access. Again, there are caveats: the hens are not always outside and do not continuously have the option of being outdoors. Hens are fed organic feed (grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers) and are not given growth hormones. Antibiotics are also prohibited unless there is an infectious outbreak. Beak and wing cutting without anesthesia is prohibited (this is allowed by cage-free standards).
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