Understanding Egg Labels

When it comes to ensuring better lives for laying hens, don’t be duped by meaningless labels. Look for ASPCA recommended labels Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership (Step 2 or higher), and take our Shop With Your Heart pledge for updates. 

ASPCA Egg Guide

AWA Logo
Animal Welfare Approved
 

Certified Humane
Certified Humane

Global Animal Partnership
Global Animal Partnership

American Humane Certified
American Humane Certified

USDA Organic
USDA Organic†


Cage-Free

Free Range
Free Range


No Antibiotics Ever


Natural

Cages Prohibited

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Adequate Indoor Space Minimums

1.8 ft2 per bird

1.5 ft2 per bird

1.5 ft2 per bird

0.8 ft2 – 1.5 ft2 per bird depending on type of system

No

No

No

No

No

Environmental Enrichments Required

Yes, outdoor enrichments on pasture

Yes, must have sufficient substrate/ litter to dust bathe and forage freely

Step 1: No

Step 2: Yes, ≥ 1 type of indoor enrichment required for every 1000 hens

Step 3: Yes, ≥ 2 types of indoor enrichment required for every 750 hens

Step 4: Yes, ≥ 2 types of indoor enrichment required for every 500 hens

Step 5-5+: Yes, outdoor enrichments on pasture

Not required in caged or cage-free standards

Required in free-range and pasture standards

No

No

No

No

No

Outdoor Access Required

Yes, “continuous daytime ranging and foraging area access”

Only if free-range**

Step 1-2: No

Step 3-4: Yes, access to pasture at least 4 hrs/day

Step 5-5+: Yes, continuous pasture access

Only if free-range**

Yes, but undefined

No

Yes, but undefined

No

No

Perches Required

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes, but an inadequate amount

No

No

No

No

No

Nest Boxes Required

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Natural Light Required

Yes

No

Step 4 and above

No

No

No

No

No

No

Forced Molting Prohibited

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

Routine Antibiotic Use Prohibited

Yes

Yes

Yes

No, allows nontherapeutic use of ionophores

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

On-Farm Audits

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

Detailed On-Farm Welfare Standards

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

100% Compliance with Standards

Yes

Yes

Yes

No*

Yes

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

† Although the USDA Organic program released new, stronger animal welfare standards in January 2017, it delayed their implementation for months. Finally, in December 2017, the USDA announced its intention to withdraw these new standards completely. We are monitoring developments and will keep you updated; be sure to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade for alerts if you haven’t already.

* American Humane Certified standards only require that producers meet 85% of the provided standards. Accordingly, it is possible that a producer might not meet certain requirements (including antibiotic or hormone use) and still receive the American Humane Certified certification.

** Certified Humane and American Humane Certified only require outdoor access under their free-range and/or pasture programs. Therefore, only eggs that have both the certification and a free-range and/or pasture label come from hens with outdoor access.