Cuisine at Home : 2020-02-11

He A Lt H Y Cuisine : 34 : 34

He A Lt H Y Cuisine

he a lt h y cuisine egg label guide by Whole Foods Market. Look for these different steps, which have different label colors: Step 1: no cages, crates or crowding; Step 2: enriched environmen­ts (supplying materials — like hay bales and food hung from a string — that encourage their natural behaviors, such as scratching, foraging, pecking, and exploring); Step 3: enhanced outdoor access; Step 4: pasture-centered; Step 5: animalcent­ered and no physical alteration­s. Step 5+ means animal-centered and their entire lives are spent on the same farm (except for chickens, which may be transferre­d right before slaughter). It also means no growth hormones, animal by-products in any species’ feed, or antibiotic­s (except for chickens). This is the highest rating available. Frankly, people do judge a book by its cover. In the grocery store, you’ll see egg cartons swaddled in so many labels, they might remind you of vintage suitcases stamped with alluring stickers of destinatio­ns visited. An egg carton may feature depictions of bright rays of sunshine, cherry-red barns, or cartoon images of deliriousl­y happy hens. On price, you see a significan­t spectrum. The labels range from meaningles­s to meaningful, with some gray area in between. The following labels, like Natural and Farm-Fresh, are meaningles­s — nothing but marketing: NO HORMONES NO ANTIBIOTIC­S This goes without saying in the egg industry. Hens that lay eggs aren’t allowed to be given hormones. All eggs are no-hormone eggs. This means egg producers did not add antibiotic­s to the feed or water of the egg-laying chickens. CERTIFIED ORGANIC UNITED EGG PRODUCERS CERTIFIED Carefully regulated by the USDA, organic certificat­ion sets specific requiremen­ts for what egg-laying hens are fed — the food must be vegetarian and free from pesticides or antibiotic­s — and how the land they’re raised on is treated. So, it’s a strong one from environmen­tal and public health standpoint­s. Where it’s not so strong is animal welfare. For assurance of access to outdoors or more extensive life-style enhancemen­ts for the birds, look for the aforementi­oned animal welfare labels or the more rigorous versions of “pasture-raised” or “free-range,” as described below. This voluntary program looks impressive on a label but acts as the least common denominato­r for egg producers, nearly all of whom participat­e. Its standards are technicall­y verified, but those standards are so low, I wouldn’t put any stock in the label: Hens are still confined, jam-packed with other hens, and deprived of fresh air and sunlight. These labels are meaningful, the practices have been vetted and are worth your attention: ANIMAL WELFARE APPROVED Considered the top animal welfare label on the market by Consumer Reports, this label represents producers who have gone well beyond cage-free or free-range or ensuring appropriat­e feed. It means animals being given the freedom to engage in their natural behaviors. Egg-laying hens are allowed to walk around, peck for bugs, nest, and so on. These labels represent the vast gray area in between meaningles­s and meaningful — not bad, but the intention/reality ratio is murky: CAGE-FREE Hens are likely still raised in very confined quarters squished up against each other, and they may or may not be let outdoors, But at least they’re not in tiny cages, and in theory they are free to move around and do their usual chicken thing. Cage-free means a lot more when buying eggs — whose hens are indeed most commonly confined to cruelly small cages — than it does when buying chicken, because broilers aren’t usually raised in cages to begin with. CERTIFIED HUMANE RAISED AND HANDLED This certificat­ion ensures that specific parameters have been met for one of the three levels related to eggs — cage-free, free-range, or pasture-raised. If you see this label, you’ll also see one of those three designatio­ns. GLOBAL ANIMAL PARTNERSHI­P (GAP) CERTIFIED FREE-RANGE OR FREE ROAMING This is a five-step program tailored to specific species, including egg-laying hens, and is most notably used This one is often interchang­eable with “cage-free,” except its extra selling point is outdoor access. 34 C U I S I N E AT H O M E .CO M