Have a question? Chances are, we have an answer for you. Check here for some of the most common questions we receive about our eggs.
What’s the difference between Cage-Free and Pasture-Raised eggs?
“Cage-free” is a somewhat misleading term in the industry. It does mean that hens are not confined to the very inhumane “battery” cages that still dominate the industry with six hens to a cage the size of a microwave. But some of these same egg producers now have converted a percentage of their production to Cage Free to capture the growth and higher price there. They have not, however, changed their stripes in terms of animal welfare. The birds are still confined to large metal enclosures, floor to ceiling, in massive warehouses that can house hundreds of thousands of birds. The birds have a little more freedom of movement, but in now way can they exhibit their natural behaviors or get outside.
Carol’s offers two different standards. Both are Certified Humane and both provide very nice lives for our hens.
Free Range (for our Heirloom Eggs) – Hens have full access to pasture in good weather and spacious floor barns (not tiered cage systems like “cage-free”), continuous access to fresh water, nesting boxes, scratching areas and more.
Pasture-Raised (for both Organic and non Organic varieties) – These farms are further south and offer year round access to even larger pasture spaces than free range, along with shade structures and all of the same barn conditions as free range.
Are all Carol’s Eggs Pasture-Raised?
No. We also offer free-range eggs with our Heirloom eggs. Our free-range farms are Certified Humane and is an excellent standard as well.
Why aren’t Heirloom Eggs Pasture-Raised?
We’re enthusiastic about the wonderful pasture-raising system our farmers use to produce Carol’s Pasture-Raised Organic Eggs, but the substantial time and labor required to manage a pasture-raising system can add to the cost significantly. Because Heirloom Eggs are already more costly to produce, since they come from prized (and premium-priced) breeds like Ameraucanas and Marans, the lower space requirements off free-range helps us keep the cost affordable for our customers.
Additionally, to be pasture-raised, you must have year-round access to pasture and that is only possible in southern states. We still want to support farmers and farm communities up north and we believe that the small number of months that hens need to stay inside our spacious free-range barns during the coldest winter months is an acceptable trade off. The Certified Humane Free Range standard we follow for our Heirloom flocks is still widely considered to be among the very best in the industry and we encourage people to learn more about it if they have questions or concerns.
Your eggs are labeled “Certified Humane.” What does that mean?
Certified Humane® is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve animal welfare. It’s widely known as the “gold standard” of farm animal care certification.
Our Certified Humane® labels show our farms are regularly inspected to meet all HFAC’s rigorous standards. It’s your assurance that our hens always have ample space and shelter, in clean, well-ventilated barns, with safe outdoor access. They’re handled gently to minimize stress, and have plenty of freedom to engage in their natural behaviors, like roosting, scratching, and dust-bathing. We’re committed to the welfare of our hens.
What do your hens eat?
Carol’s Free Range Heirloom hens enjoy nutritionally balanced feed that contains whole cereal grains like corn and 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 their pasture.
The feed our Carol’s Pasture-Raised Organic hens eat daily is similar, but is 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 and not GMO free. This helps lower the cost to consumers while still providing them an excellent egg.
Do pasture-raised eggs taste different from regular eggs?
Most folks say pasture-raised egg flavors are deeper and more “eggy” when compared with other eggs. The flavor can also vary a little, depending on the time of year. The pasture’s vegetation—and the insects, worms, and grubs that live in it—changes with the season, so some of the hens’ diet will, too, and you might taste a difference in the yolks.
The yolks’ color can also change seasonally, thanks to plant pigments called carotenoids, found in dark leafy greens, grasses and weeds like dandelions. Carotenoids can give yolks a deeper orange-yellow color. (Bonus: Carotenoids are also natural, heart-healthy antioxidants.)
How do Heirloom eggs taste?
Old folks who grew up on farms tell us our heirloom eggs “taste like eggs used to taste” – with a full, rich character they remember fondly from their childhoods. They lament that most supermarket eggs these days “don’t have much flavor at all.”
That’s because in the old days, farmers chose heirloom breeds that were best adapted to the local climate and landscape. They knew they’d produce the highest quality, best-tasting eggs. Nowadays, the factory farms look for breeds that give them the most eggs, fastest, with the cheapest possible “inputs” (diet). Whose eggs do you think will taste better?
Why do you have barns if you provide pasture for the hens?
Hens naturally prefer to go indoors at night, because they know that’s where they’re safest from predators. (It’s a smart instinct, since most of their worst predators—like foxes, coyotes, wolves, and owls—are most active at night.) One of the most amazing things to see on our farms is the sudden, mad dash for the barn doors of an entire flock of hens when a mere shadow from a hawk crosses over their pasture. To say they have a keen sense of predator awareness is putting it mildly.
And, in our Northeastern winters, a warm barn is a must on cold, wet and snowy days. As much as they love hunting and pecking in the grass, our pasture-raised hens are happiest knowing there’s a safe, comfortable perch waiting for them nearby in their barn!