The Truth About Your Eggs

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"Certified Humane"

What it means: Birds must be in cage-free environments and fed a diet free of animal byproducts and growth promoters, like antibiotics and arsenic. Antibiotic use is allowed to treat diseases but only under the supervision of a veterinarian. There's no requirement that animals have access to the outdoors but farmers do have to meet certain standards for space to perform natural behaviors, such as scratching and perching.

Can you trust it? Yes. Though the standards aren't as stringent as Animal Welfare Approved certification, the certification is still administered by an independent third party (Humane Farm Animal Care) that subjects farmers to annual visits and requires diligent record-keeping.

"United Egg Producers Certified"

What it means: While forced molting is prohibited under this certification, debeaking is allowed, along with other cruel and inhumane practices, such as the use of battery cages. There are no guidelines for antibiotic use or any standards prohibiting animal byproducts or growth promoters in feed.

Can you trust it? No. This is a third-party certification program, but the guidelines were developed by the food industry, not independent third parties. Shapiro says this, along with "natural," is one of the most misleading claims made on an egg carton. According to the Humane Society, the overwhelming majority of the U.S. egg industry complies with this program.

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More from Rodale.com:

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