How to Read an Egg Carton: What Cage-Free Really Means

Peden + Monkby Carla Lalli Music, Bon Appétit

Mystified by all the claims on your 12-pack? Us too. Here's what those terms really mean:

Natural
Tells you almost nothing; every raw chicken egg is "natural." Keep reading the label.

Related: Fool-Proof Hard Boiled Eggs

Cage-Free
Means the hens were not confined to cages. But many cage-free birds never leave crowded barns. Similarly, "free-range" hens have outdoor access, but that doesn't mean they get much past the exit.

See also: The Perfect Poached Egg

Organic
The first choice of the BA Test Kitchen. This indicates cage-free, free-range hens that eat an organic vegetarian diet. Free of hormones and antibiotics.

Pastured
The best choice, but pricey and harder to find. Birds can roam outdoors to forage for insects and grass, which produces healthier (and often tastier) eggs.

Large
The size you'll need for most recipes. Extra-large could throw off the ratio when baking.

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