Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs ARE NOT affected by egg recall. See Details »
Pete and Gerry's Pasture

What are Pasture Raised Eggs?

It’s a question we’re getting more and more. What does the pasture raised eggs label mean? How is it different from our Free Range pastured hens? And why aren’t Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs pasture raised?

We wrote a longer blog post about this, a little over a year ago, titled ‘Why We Are Free Range and Not Pasture Raised.‘ But, as the question continues to come up, it may be time for an update on the issue.

Humane Treatment of Animals

First of all, we support humane treatment for all farm animals, including hens obviously, and we sincerely hope that people will only buy free range and pastured raised eggs in the future. The Cage Free standard has already been co-opted by factory farms. It is better than the battery cages that still dominate the industry today, but only marginally better, as the hens are essentially confined to larger cages in massive industrial facilities with no outdoor access.

Pasture Raised Eggs vs. Free Range Eggs

As for the difference between free range and pasture raised eggs, they are both excellent standards; provided that they are certified by a credible 3rd party, such as Certified Humane, as ours are. Beyond that, our firm belief is that the amount of space our hens have is more than sufficient. You can see that in all of the photos of our family farms, where the hens rarely cover more than a small fraction of our substantial pastures.

History of Pasture Raised Standards

The much larger space requirement for Pasture Raised actually originates from a British soil management standard defined in the 1940s that was based on rotational grazing needs. In other words, the amount of space per hen was not based on having enough for the hens to be comfortable, but how much you need if you are moving flocks from pasture to pasture.

The idea was to ensure viable grass and soil for other crops or animals after the hens had been on it for a period of time. So the space requirement had nothing to do with animal welfare.

Despite this, it was adopted by the two primary certifiers in the U.S. as the “Pasture Raised” standard. And interestingly, the standard allows for “rotational fencing” meaning that even if they claim 108 sq. ft. per hen, that is the undivided total, not what is available to a hen on any given day.

More space is great. We applaud responsible egg farming at whatever scale. But the more space you use the higher your prices. One only has to look at the price of farmland to know this.

Pasture Raised Eggs vs. Organic Eggs

It’s important to not confuse Pasture Raised eggs with Organic eggs either. They are entirely different things. Laying hens, including Pasture Raised hens, do not get their primary source of nutrition from foraging. It comes from their feed, which is either organic, or it’s not. There are many Pasture Raised Eggs that are not organic as they are fed conventional feed that was grown with pesticides and herbicides.

Our Free Range Organic Eggs

At Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, we don’t see a meaningful difference in animal welfare between these two excellent standards, so we choose to maintain the Free Range standard and sell our Organic eggs for a bit less money. If you prefer to buy Pasture Raised eggs instead, we are absolutely fine with that. Just know that when you choose our Organic, Certified Humane, Free Range Eggs, you are guaranteed that you are getting an egg laid by a hen that has an exceptionally humane existence.

Why We Are Free Range and Not Pastured Raised

At Pete & Gerry’s, we recognize that the egg aisle is a confusing place.  That’s why we hope to earn your trust so that instead of having to understand every industry term out there like cage-free, free-range, or pasture-raised, you can simply reach for our package with confidence, because you know we’re doing the right thing for hens, farmers, and for your family. My family has been raising chickens for three decades and have the expertise that comes from doing something for a long time and constantly improving on it as you go. That makes our company pretty unique in the egg industry. We hope that our customers discover that we care about our hens so much that if there was a better way to raise them —­ we’d be the first ones doing it.

For many decades, the egg aisle has been almost entirely caged eggs coming from hens living indescribable lives. Finally, after years of advocacy and the growing awareness of consumers about this barbaric form of agriculture, things are beginning to change. We expect that caged eggs will be a thing of the past within the next 10 years. That’s great news for chickens, and for all of us. But, it also means that there will now be lots of less scrupulous companies trying to jump on the bandwagon. In most cases, this will be the former caged producers now producing “cage-free” eggs, but essentially using the same industrial approach they used in the past. It will represent a marginal improvement in hen welfare, because they will finally be able to move around. But the facilities where they are raised will in no way represent what a consumer would consider to be a farm in terms of scale, crowding, cleanliness, or transparency.

On the other side, there is also a group of companies competing to persuade customers that our Certified Humane Free Range standard, which you can read about here, is somehow not sufficient or adequately humane.

Outdoor Space Isn’t An Arms Race

The Certified Humane Free Range standard was developed by scientists and animal welfare experts. It calls for 2 sq. ft. of outdoor access on grass per hen. Now, this may not sound like much if you imagine a bunch of hens all occupying their own little 2’ X 2’ patch of grass. However, it’s important to note that this is just an average over a huge flock, and that not all of the hens use the pasture space at the same time. Not even close. Hens are actually a lot like people in this regard. Whether it’s cool outside, hot, or a delightful 72 degrees, many of them would simply prefer to be inside. It’s safe, comfortable, cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and there’s fresh water and feed. As a company, we don’t force hens to go outside. We give them ample ways to access the outdoors, and then let the girls decide. If you spend time watching them, you will see a steady stream of hens entering and exiting the barns. At any given point in time, the hens that are outside have far more than 2 sq. ft. apiece. And, they are very social birds, so while they don’t wish to be crammed into giant warehouses, or tiny cages, they do want to huddle into little groups and cliques to cluck about whatever is on their minds. So there is always more grass and dirt areas open than occupied.

Pasture Raised brands are advertising that they offer from 35 to 108 sq. ft. per hen and suggesting that 2 sq. ft. is insufficient. More is not better in this case. More is just more. And it costs the farmers more to own and maintain that extra space for no discernible purpose. Agricultural land is scarce and expensive, so forcing small farm families to operate and maintain an excess of it just to brag about how much square footage each hen gets seems insincere and gratuitous to us.

There is a category of very small farms that can make the larger space work economically. But those are typically mixed use, hobby-style, micro farms that exist in a completely separate economic climate, selling to farmers’ markets, CSAs, and to their local area at considerably higher prices. Mainstream grocery distribution requires a higher level of efficiency in order to even get on the shelf. So we support this other style of farm wholeheartedly, just as we support backyard chicken coops, but they are a very small piece of the larger change we seek.

First we ask ourselves: What is right for the hens? We believe that we understand that better than anyone in the industry, and we follow the independently audited standard set by Humane Farm Animal Care for Free Range. Second, we ensure to do what is best for our farmers, and that means helping them raise hens humanely without undue costs. This allows us to deliver great eggs to our consumers at a reasonable price

It is an exciting time to be in the business of producing humane, ethical, organic eggs. In my lifetime, I have not seen the industry change this dramatically or quickly. Over the next year, we believe many more consumers will begin to decide what they think a reasonable egg farm should look like. We believe that a small family farm producing to the Certified Humane Free Range standard is the best way to meet our country’s egg demands in a humane, sustainable way. We don’t believe that means there is no such thing as too much space for hens, and we’re pretty sure the hens don’t either. So we will continue to try to balance the needs of hens, our farmers, and our loyal customers as best we can.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs not affected by egg recall!

Over 200 million eggs have been recalled recently by another company due to a concern over Salmonella stemming from a single Rose Acre Farms location in North Carolina.

None of our eggs are part of this recall as we would never produce eggs on a factory farm of that size or style. If you’re concerned about eggs you purchased recently, see what brands have been recalled.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs are produced responsibly and safely on small family farms. Learn more about why our eggs are different.