Let’s talk about eggs. I receive lots of questions in my everyday life about food labels. I overhear lots of conversations and listen to a lot of comments about food, about labels and many of those are specifically about eggs and meat.
At the farmers market, most of the food doesn’t have a label. Fresh, local, just picked, real food doesn’t need a lot of description. A customer may ask the specific name of a variety of vegetable or about production and growing methods, but probably not much else.
There are not a lot of regulations regarding food labels. There is a lot of confusion and misnomers regarding terminolgy. I hope to clear some of this up. The terms and definitions are for eggs. But many of the terms can also be used for the meat industry.
I am hoping that by reading and understanding this information and knowing the terminology, you will connect with what the market vendors are offering. Perhaps you will better understand the pricing, the nutritional value of their products and the condition in which the laying hens (or the meat animals) are fed, housed and raised.
One problem is many packaging terms aren’t federally regulated. Athough some cartons carry designations, such as Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved, that come from third-party auditors that certify specific farming practices are used. Claims on food packaging have grown so complicated that even the most-discerning shoppers are sometimes befuddled.There is the broad category “organic,” but also “cage free,” “pasture-raised,” or “free-range.” Some contain “omega-3.” Hens are “vegetarian fed” or “grass fed.” Then there’s the color: Does it matter if eggs are brown or white?
ORGANIC: Eggs and meat certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture come from uncaged birds and animals that have some outdoor access. Their feed is organically raised, and they can’t receive antibiotics.
CAGE-FREE: Means the chickens were uncaged and able to freely roam a barn or other facility, but they generally don’t have access to the outdoors.
FREE-RANGE: Indicates the hens and other meat animals are cage-free and have some access to the outdoors, but the type and duration of outdoor access is unclear. It may, for example, entail a screened porch.
ALL NATURAL: Can mean just about anything the egg or any food producer wants. The USDA considers all shell eggs natural and sets no standards for the hens’ living conditions and feed.
PASTURE-RAISED: Indicates the hens and other meat animaals are raised outdoors on a pasture where they can roam and forage. They are often given the “grass fed” label as well. But the USDA hasn’t developed a definition for pasture-raised products.
VEGETARIAN-FED: Means the hens received only vegetarian feed, so no animal byproducts were used. It also indicates the chickens—which naturally are omnivores—were kept indoors and unable to eat grubs, worms or other bugs.
OMEGA-3: Means eggs contain extra omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to improve heart health. The hens that produce them are fed a diet rich in these acids, such as flax and fish oils.
WHITE/BROWN: Egg color is based on the breed of hen laying the egg and doesn’t affect quality or nutrition.
As the market manager, one of my many tasks is to provide the community with a unique and wide variety of quality vendors. I want the vendors to do well each week. I want them to sell out at 7pm! I want all of you to form relationships. I want the market to be a place of commerce and community. Over the next few weeks I will be writing about subjects that will educate and entertain you.
What do the terms free range, cage free, pastured and all natural mean in the egg and meat industry? How do bees make honey? Why is honey different colors and have different flavors? What does organic mean? Why are those eggs more expensive? What are sprouts? We will also be sharing more recipes and easy ways to prep and enjoy fresh, seasonal, local produce
The market continues to grow and flourish and I continue to look forward to a wonderful season.
We will l continue to host the University of Missouri Extension Nutrition department. They will be visiting with us throughout the market season sharing information about local, seasonal, food, healthy and nutritious food options, recipes and more. Visit the site Family Nutrition Education Program
Join us at the Market, 4pm-7pm. Enjoy live music, complimentary Schlafly beer samples and a great line-up of vendors.
We will try to keep you updated and posted on who will be at the market from week to week. Visit the website or Facebook page for updates.
Please stop by each Wednesday, rain or shine, be surprised, enjoy the variety of what’s in season at any given time, create relationships with the folks that grow your food.
Alpacas of Troy– alpaca meat, yarn and alpaca fiber items
Baetje Cheese- Award Winning, Artisan Goat Cheese
Bee Simple– a unique variety of locally grown sprouts and microgreens
Biver Farms- certified organic plants and produce
Buila Family Farm– a variety of local, seasonal produce; the last few weeks we have seen a variety of greens, a variety of berries, cherry tomatoes, burpless cucs and more
Del Carmen– a variety of locally made, traditional Cuban black beans, black bean sop and hummus.
Ivan– a variety of local, seasonal produce
Eckenfels Family Farm– locally raised, pastured beef and pork cuts, farm fresh eggs
El Chico Bakery- fruit filled emapanadas and cookies
Farrar Out Farm– locally raised, pastured beef, pork and lamb cuts and organically raised produce
Flower Hill and Rosy Buck Farms– salad mix, sprouts, pea shoots, radishes, eggs, bedding plants, edible flowers, bouquets
iScream– a unique variety of locally made ice cream treats
Ludwig Farms Creamery– a variety of cows milk cheeses
Ozark Forest Mushrooms– a variety of unique locally cultivated mushrooms, dried mushrooms and other related delicies
Riverbend Roots Farm-a variety of local, seasonal produce; we’ve seen a variety of beautiful salad mix, baby chard, spinach and radishes
Seed Geeks– a large variety of non GMO seeds, handmade soaps and a unique variety of local, raw honey “goodness”
Three Girls and a Tractor– a variety of local,seasonal produce and local grown, sweet Missouri pecans
Tamale Man– a variety of fresh, handmade tamales with unique sauces
Three Rivers Community Farm– a variety of local, seasonal produce; she’s had beautiful lettuces, salad mix, radishes, a variety of greens and berries
Non Food Vendors this week include
Essential Spa Solutions
Don’t forget to thank Schlafly Bottleworks for sharing the space and supporting the market, local small businesses and family farms. Enjoy a complimentary Schlafly beer sample and live music each week.
Please visit the website, check out the Facebook, Twitter andInstagram market pages. Please “Like”, “Share”, “Retweet” and whatever else you do to make the market shine on social media
Thank you for your support.
See you at the Market,
René Sackett, Market Manager