Brown hen wandering freely on green grass with yellow flowers in the background, conditions for pasture-raised eggs.

What are Pasture Raised Eggs? Benefits and Standards

If you are trying to live a more conscious and ethical lifestyle, you’ve probably wondered to yourself, what are pasture raised eggs? Is there a real difference? Am I wasting my money? First off, no, you are not wasting your money. You can’t put a price tag on animal suffering, and anyone who cares about animal welfare would agree that a couple dollars more for eggs that are humanely produced is worth every penny. And, actually, many brands can be found quite affordably – you just need to know where to look. 

Also, yes, there is a major difference between pasture, conventional, cage-free and free-range eggs. So before you make your next omelet, learn about what sets the pasture raised above the rest. 

What are pasture raised eggs? 

Pasture raised eggs come from hens who are free to roam pastures, grasslands and forests, pecking for insects, seeds and grasses (their natural food) during the day. At night, they retreat to their hen houses to roost, nest and lay eggs (this also protects them against predators). While pasture-raised is not a specific certification in and of itself, it does imply that the eggs come from small family farms with large pastures for egg-laying hens.

Certified Humane and American Humane Certified, on the other hand, are official certifications that comes with a list of requirements for the production of pasture-raised eggs. To receive the Certified Humane or American Humane Certified label, the hens must be kept on a pasture 12 months of the year and there must be 2.5 acres per 1000 birds, or 108 sq. feet per bird. At night, as outlined above, the hens are kept inside. Pasture raised are the most humane of all the egg types.

Many brands have the Certified Humane or American Certified Humane label. If they don’t, it may be a smaller, local family farm that has not yet applied for this certification. If ever in doubt about the conditions of the hens at the farm you get your pasture-raised eggs from, you can always call them and ask directly for more information about the conditions for their hens. Usually, they will be thrilled to provide this information and maybe even invite you for a visit.

Pasture-raised eggs in hay with one of them cracked open to expose orange yolk.

Are pasture-raised eggs healthier? 

Yes, according to research, pasture-raised eggs are healthier than conventional eggs. In fact, a study by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has shown that pasture-raised eggs contain double the vitamin E and omega-3s. Folic acid and B12 is 70 percent more, and vitamin A is over 30 percent more in pasture raised. Plus, chickens who have had exposure to sunlight lay eggs that contain three-to-four times more vitamin D.

All these nutrients provide much-needed nourishment to the body. Omega 3’s lower blood pressure, preserve hair and skin health, improve mobility of the muscles and joints and support healthy brain function. Vitamin D strengthens the bones and muscles, boosts immunity, and helps prevent diabetes and hypertension. Vitamin B12 is essential for anemia prevention, higher energy levels and healthy hair. So, as you can see, they provide way more nutrients than conventional, which preserves whole body wellness and beauty.

Soft boiled pasture-raised eggs on toast with avocado and pomegranate.

Free range vs. pasture-raised eggs

Pasture raised 

Pasture raised eggs come from hens that are free to roam on grassy pastures year-round eating their natural diet of bugs, grasses and seeds. The hens retreat to hen houses at night for warmth and protection from predators. According to Certified Humane and American Humane Certified standards for pasture raised, hens must have 108 square feet of pasture per bird.

Free-range

Free range eggs come from hens that have approximately 2 square feet of outdoor space each for around 6 hours per day. The space usually contains a large flock of birds in an open air warehouse. The ground does not need to be comprised of living vegetation and is often dirt or concrete.

Cage-free

Cage-free eggs come from hens with no access to the outdoors. Cage free simply means, as it sounds, that they are not in cages. They are in a crowded room, building or enclosed area, with approximately 1.25 square feet of space per bird.

Caged

Caged eggs come from hens who live the entirety of their lives inside large, enclosed warehouses in battery cages that measure no more than a sheet of paper. They are unable to move or flap their wings, and there are usually multiple hens stuffed into each cage, which can cause extreme anxiety, pain and frustration.

Where to buy them

Know where to look for affordable pasture-raised eggs. You may notice if you go to your local supermarket, pasture-raised eggs are actually more expensive than in major health food stores. Conventional supermarkets price gauge a bit because there is no house brand and not much competition between pasture-raised egg brands. If you go to a place like Whole Foods, Trader Joes or even Costco, you can find a variety of brands (or at least a house-brand) and for that reason, more reasonable pricing. Here are some common stores where you can find pasture-raised eggs: 

  • Costco. Costco carries Kirkland Pasture-Raised Eggs (their house-brand) 24 for just $8.99*
  • Whole Foods. Whole Foods has their house brand 365 eggs at $4.99 a dozen. They also sell other brands like Vital Farms for $5.99 a dozen*
  • Trader Joes. Trader Joes sells them for $3.99 a dozen. My local Trader Joe’s was selling Carol’s Pasture Raised Eggs.
  • Sprouts. Sprouts sells house-brand pasture raised eggs for $4.99 a dozen*
  • Local Farmer’s Market. Head to your local weekly Farmer’s Market where farmers of the region come to sell their eggs. Prices vary but it’s great to be able to purchase right from the farmer. You can even visit a local farm.

*Prices and pasture-raised egg supplier may vary according to region and time of year. Pricing as of Winter 2021.

Hen in the hen house on hay laying pasture-raised eggs.

Conclusion

Pasture-raised eggs are most definitely the most humane and healthy egg option at the market. However, since this is not an official certification in and of itself, you are going to want to do your research to ensure the farm is meeting your ethical standards. The easy way to identify this is via the Certified Humane and American Humane Certified labels. However, you can always go a step further and contact the farm directly if you have additional questions about their practices.

Hens roaming freely on big green field to make pasture-raised eggs at Handsome Brook Farms.

Pasture-Raised Egg Brands: Humane Eggs Directory (2021)

If you care about animal welfare, finding out the most humane egg brands is essential. I have done research and reached out to some pasture-raised egg brands to compile this Humane Eggs Directory that you can refer to when looking for kinder, healthier eggs. Some of these awesome companies even collaborated with us and provided a statement about their humane practices.

*Feature Photo Courtesy of Handsome Brook Farms. Thanks, you guys are awesome!


1. Happy Hens Pasture Raised

Pasture-Raised | Certified-Humane | Non-GMO | USDA Organic

Website

Why we love them:

Happy Hens eggs come from hens raised in small flocks with lots of room to roam and live a natural life. All eggs at the farm 100 percent pasture-raised and the hens are fed organic food, free of corn and soy. Plus, they are top-rated by Cornucopia Institute as being the #1 organic egg farm in the nation. The farmers have a commitment to bring consumers eggs in the most humane and sustainable way possible from their Southern California pastures. I actually live in San Diego and eat their eggs frequently.

Statement from Happy Hens:

“We are a TRULY OUTDOOR, Pasture Raised, Family Owned and Operated Egg Ranch in the picturesque mountain of San Diego. We produce not only Certified Organic, NON-GMO Verified + Certified Humane eggs but also have been rated #1 in the NATION in regard to our practices in regard to raising our hens and lifestyle we provide for them!  Unlike most pasture raised farms, our hens actually live in small numbers with mobile barns that we continually rotate through our Pastures creating a biodynamic environment where we get to harsh nature and work with it to REGENERATE the land we steward!”  


2. Handsome Brook Farms

Pasture Raised | American Humane Certified | USDA Organic | Kosher

Website

Why we love them:

Handsome Brook Farms takes the welfare of their hens seriously. All the girls are allowed to roam free on pastures and are fed organic food with no pesticides or GMOs. They are doing a lot of great work to change the system and help shift society away from industrial, numbers-based egg production, to small farms working together with animal welfare and sustainability at the forefront.

Q&A with Handsome Brook Farms:

Living conditions for your hens: All of our hens are Pasture Raised (108+ sq feet of outdoor space per hen) on small family farms and fed a 100% organic diet. 

Your relationship with the hens: Our choices of how to treat our hens—what to plant on farm, what not to spray, what to feed and how to care for our hens—is at the foundation of Handsome Brook Farms. Our farmers are true stewards of the land and believe that organic pasture raising is the most sustainable and humane way to produce eggs. As part of a regional group, each farm is supported by farm supervisors and experts, to create a community of mutual support, education and logistics.

Your location: Handsome Brook Farms was founded in upstate NY and our headquarters is now in New York City. Our network of just over 80 family farms spans three regions of the country: Northeast, Central, and MOARK. 

Your philosophy: At Handsome Brook Farms, we strive to act Handsomely in all that we do. This means treating our farmers and animals with dignity and the land with respect, while helping consumers access clean, responsibly-raised protein. Being Handsome means working hard to ensure personal, public, and planetary health are prioritized at every turn. With this at our core, we feel well-positioned to…bring the most sustainable eggs from our coops to your carton. 


3. Vital Farms

Pasture-Rasied | Certfied Humane | Organic Option | Non-GMO Option

Website

Why we love them:

Vital Farms is so easy to find in just about every major grocery store, and the company is committed to making pasture-raised eggs available to all. My favorite thing about them is each egg carton is stamped with the exact farm where those particular eggs are from. You can then go to their website and see a webcam feed of the hens roaming freely on the pastures! So adorable and A+ for transparency and traceability.

Statement from Vital Farms:

In 2007, we started with 20 Rhode Island red hens, a small plot of land, and a strong belief in ethics, from ensuring animals have the freedom to roam on open pasture and supporting small family farms to building a business that prioritizes the long-term benefits of its stakeholders.  More info can be found on our About Us and Instagram page.


4. Carol’s Pasture Raised Eggs

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | USDA Organic

Website

Why we love them:

Carol’s Pasture Raised Eggs come from hens in Virginia who are allowed to roam the pastures all day long and return to their warm, safe barns at night. The company offers pasture-raised eggs, organic pasture-raised eggs and free-range heirloom eggs. I have tried their Pasture-Raised eggs after finding them at Trader Joe’s, and the yolks were some of the deepest orange I’ve personally seen — they were delicious!

Statement from Carol’s Eggs:

We’re so grateful that you reached out to us here at Carol’s Eggs. We’re proud to be Certified Humane. This means our lovely chickens spend their days outside on plentiful grassy pastures or in their spacious barns where they have unlimited access to food and water and we work hard to maintain certain standards for animal welfare in accordance to Certified Humane’s standards. You can find out more about these standards via their website: https://certifiedhumane.org/

We have a few different offerings of our eggs:
Our heirloom hens enjoy nutritionally balanced feed that contains whole cereal grains like corn, soybeans, marigold petals, alfalfa grasses, and naturally omega-3-rich flaxseed. They have access to clean, fresh, filtered water whenever they need it. And finally, they can forage for insects, flowers, and other delights in the pasture.

Our organic pasture-raised hens are similar, but also Certified Organic. The hens also forage on organic pasture daily, so they also get a nutritious boost from the plants, bugs, worms, and grubs they find there. 

We also offer non-organic pasture-raised eggs. The feed has the same rich mix of nutrition as all our hens get but the corn, soy, and other grains are not Certified Organic or GMO free. This helps lower the cost to consumers while still providing them an excellent egg.

Regarding our farm locations and being pasture raised, our pasture-raised flocks are primarily located in Virginia, so nearly year-round they can enjoy their very spacious pastures all day long. 


5. Alexandre Kids

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | USDA Organic

Website

Why we love them

These eggs that hail from California are pasture-raised, certified humane, and USDA organic. The hens that spend their days clucking and preening and stretching their feathers and legs on the lush green grass. They are free to forage all they want outside and go inside to their nest in the coop to lay eggs. They live a natural life as hens should.


6. Blue Sky Family Farms

Pasture Raised | American Humane Certified

Website

Why we love them

Blue Sky Farms is named as such because their hens get to roam freely beneath the beautiful blue skies. All the chickens are able to do all the things that make them happy, like perching, dust bathing, scratching the ground, and roaming the pasture for a healthy dose of fresh and and vitamin D.


7. Born Free Eggs

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | American Humane Certified | Organic Option

Website

Why we love them

As the name suggests, we love these eggs because the hens are “Born Free.” They are born free to roam grassy pastures and live a healthy, happy life. The pasture-raised egg brand is a leader when it comes to adopting humane farming practices and animal care. Plus we love their eco-friendly and 100 percent recyclable packaging.


8. NestFresh

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | Organic Option | Non-GMO Option | Soy-Free Option

Website

Why we love them

NestFresh gets their nutritious eggs from hens on small family farms across the country. They have a range of Pasture Raised Egg products in addition to their free range offerings. Pasture raised options include non-GMO, organic, and soy-free organic options, appealing to people with many different lifestyle and food preferences. They also have adorable blue and brown heirloom eggs that are pasture-raised as well.


9. Chino Valley Ranchers

Pasture-Raised Option | American Humane Certified | Kosher

Website

Why we love them

This is the brand that I find at my local Sprouts in San Diego and I love them! Not only for the taste of course, but this company is committed to providing hens with a beautiful life full of sunshine, fresh air and water on family farms. The hens are free to forage for seeds, bugs and grass.


House-Brand Pasture-raised eggs

Many supermarkets carry their own house-brand of pasture-raised eggs. Grocery chains get their eggs from various pasture-raised, Certified Humane or American Humane Certified farms across the country. Being house-brand, they typically have a lower price than name brand and are so easy to find. It is amazing to see some supermarkets offering pasture-raised eggs as the norm.

  • Natural Grocer’s House Brand Pasture-Raised
  • Kirkland House Brand Pasture Raised (Costco)
  • 365 House Brand Pasture-Raised (Whole Foods)

The purpose of this Humane Egg Directory is to allow consumers to make more ethical choices when shopping for groceries. By choosing pasture-raised egg brands, you support a more humane economy where hens can live happy, natural lives rather than torturous lives in cages. Keep a lookout for these brands next time your shopping for eggs.

Please note this page about pasture-raised egg brands is continuously under construction. Last updated May 16, 2021. To learn more about pasture-raised eggs, click here.