Cracking the case of mysterious egg labelling

Vanessa Caldwell
23 January 2012

Canadian hens lay more than six billion eggs every year! Some eggs are free-range, some are organic and some are just regular old eggs. What does that mean for the hens that laid them? And what does it mean for you and your health?

With so many eggs being produced by Canadians hens each year (one egg for every person on Earth!), it’s no surprise our grocery store shelves are filled with many different kinds.

Did You Know?
The average hen in Canada lays 300 eggs per year.

In Canada, we can choose from five different types of eggs — classic brown or white, omega-3 enhanced, free-run, free-range or organic — each with its own animal welfare and/or nutritional benefits. Once you learn about what makes each kind of egg special, you’ll be able to decide which type is best for you and your family.

Classic white or brown eggs are laid by hens in cages. The nutritional values of white and brown eggs are the same — like all eggs, they’re a great source of protein and vitamins A, B6, D and E.

Did You Know?
The only difference between white and brown eggs is the kind of chicken they come from. White eggs come from breeds of hens with white feathers, like the White Leghorn. Brown eggs are from breeds of hens with brown feathers, like the Hy-line Brown, ISA Brown or Lohmann.

Free-run eggs come from hens that can roam around freely inside a barn. Free-run hens get almost double the amount of space that classically raised (caged) hens do.

Free-range eggs are laid by hens that can roam freely inside a barn and have access to an outdoor area with grass and other vegetation. Free-range hens are given almost three times as much space as classically raised hens. A 2007 study found that free-range eggs have one-third less cholesterol and a quarter less saturated fat than classically produced eggs.

Organic eggs are from organically raised free-range hens. The hens must be fed a certified organic diet (produced on toxin-, chemical- and fertilizer-free land) and raised according to regulations from certifying organizations. In Canada, OCPP/Pro-Cert Canada and individual provincial bodies can certify organic eggs. No hormones or other drugs can be used in organic egg production.

Omega-3 enhanced eggs can be regular, free-run, free-range, or organic. They come from hens that eat a vegetarian diet with lots of flax seed (a great source of omega-3 fatty acids). An omega-3 enhanced egg contains 10 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as a classic egg — in humans, eating enough omega-3 might help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Did You Know?
In Canada, eggs arrive at grocery stores four to seven days after they’re laid.

Learn more!

Canadian Poultry Magazine: Egg Labelling and Hen Welfare

BC Egg Marketing Board: FAQs

Egg Farmers of Canada

Article first published on July 15, 2010.

Vanessa Caldwell

My job is to write about business, science and technology at MaRS Discovery District, a place in Toronto that helps entrepreneurs turn their research and ideas into businesses. My last job was at a science museum, where I did the following things: wrote the words for animations and exhibits, blew stuff up, played with robots, froze things in liquid nitrogen and, sometimes, dressed in a space suit. When I'm not working, I like experimenting in the kitchen (also known as cooking), knitting, riding my bicycle and daydreaming. 


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