When we posted the question, “How Much Do You Pay for a Dozen Organic Eggs?” over at Facebook, we didn’t think we’d get so many fast responses.
More than 50 responses later, here’s the overview of what we’ve learned:
- Most respondents pay around $3.50 for a dozen organic eggs (I pay more than this, but I’m not surprised by that as I’m in California)
- The least anyone *paid* was $2 for a dozen
- The least anyone *spent* (by having their hens) was about $1 in feed per dozen eggs.
So, How Much Should You Pay for A Dozen of Organic Eggs?
Packed with vitamins, minerals, and high-quality protein, eggs promote a healthy lifestyle by assisting muscle strength, the brain, eyes, glands, weight management, and pregnancy. A dozen conventional eggs are a relatively affordable item, costing an average of 15 cents per egg, depending on region. However, not all eggs are created equal, and one of the healthiest ways to consume the highest-quality protein found in any food is to pay the extra cost organic.
What Makes Organic Eggs Different?
Eggs that are organic are produced by hens that are fed a diet free from the kind of chemicals that can cause potential harm to egg production and the quality of eggs. The feed cannot include crop ingredients that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides; genetically modified; or grown with fertilizers that contain chemical or synthetic additives. Additionally, organically-raised chickens have not been treated with growth hormones or antibiotics.
In order to use the label of ‘certified-organic’ eggs, farmers and commercial egg companies must meet the above-mentioned requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which are enforced through annual inspections. USDA-certified organic eggs also come from hens that aren’t kept in tiny cages; these enclosures do not promote a healthy or sanitary environment for chickens. Birds producing organic eggs must also have the option to gain access to the outdoors.
In addition to feeding hens certified organic feed, farmers may also provide the birds with additional substances, such as oyster shells and natural minerals (which encourage strong, healthy eggshells) and extra flax seed (to increase Omega-3 fatty acids).
How to Determine the Best Eggs for Your Health
Organic eggs are considered better for your health because they do not involve the kinds of pesticides and chemicals used in food production known to make people sick. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food-related chemicals are linked to causing health concerns ranging from skin irritations to cancer.
When shopping for organic, you’ll encounter a variety of terms that often mislead consumers into thinking they’re buying the best eggs for their health. For example, “free-roaming” and “cage-free” is not the same thing as “organic.” Hens may have free reign of an enclosed property, but this does not mean they’ve been fed an organic diet. ‘Hormone-free’ is also a tricky term because all eggs on the market are supposed to be free of growth hormones – both conventional and organic options.
Also, when choosing eggs, do not assume all brown eggs immediately indicates an organic option. Egg color signifies the type of breed or heritage of the bird laying the eggs, and does not signify an egg’s organic status.
The Cornucopia Institute Organic Egg Scorecard is a valuable resource for choosing the best organic eggs to buy. This public interest group rates farms from all over the United States.
A “5-egg” rating from the Cornucopia Institute is the highest assessment an organic egg producer can receive. The small- to medium-scale family farms that receive this grade are deemed “Exemplary” – Beyond Organic. A few farms with a 5-egg rating from the Institute include Shenandoah Valley Family Farms(Virginia), Grassfed Traditions by Tropical Traditions, Eight Mile Creek Farm (New York), Phoenix Egg Farm (Oregon), and Village Farm (Maine).
- A “4-egg” rating means “Excellent” – Organic, Promoting Outdoor Access
- A “3-egg” rating means “Very Good” – Organic, Complying with Minimum USDA Standards
- A “2-egg” rating means “Fair” – Some Questions Remain Concerning Federal Compliance Standards
A “1-egg” rating is given to organic egg producers noted as being “ethically deficient.” This rank may stem from providing no meaningful outdoor access to simply not being open enough to participate. Transparency regarding the organic food market is important, and refusing to partake in such an assessment is considered a red flag by the Institute.
Some of the nationwide, grocery store chain heavy-hitters, such as Eggland’s Best, Horizon Organic, and Land O’Lakes have been given a 1-egg rating by the Cornucopia Institute.
Outside of buying eggs at local farms and farmer’s markets, store-bought organic egg brands that rank high with consumers include Vital Farms and 365 Organics ( Whole Foods), Trader Joe’s Organic Free Range Eggs, Meijer Organics, Organic Valley, Nature’s Yoke, Farmers’ Hen House, World’s Best Eggs, Giving Nature, and Wilcox Farms.
How Much Do Organic Eggs Cost?
It’s no secret that organic eggs cost more than conventional ‘regular’ eggs. On average, organic eggs cost $3 to $5 per dozen, while non-organic eggs range from $1 to $3 per dozen. As farmers strive to meet organic certification requirements that promote the happiest and healthiest of chickens, the extra expenses contribute to this higher cost, which includes insurance charges, certification fees, licenses, egg cartons, labels, and boxes for bulk delivery. Because of these costs, many family-owned organic egg businesses charge around $4.50 and up to $6 or more per dozen to make a profit.
To get an idea of the average cost for a dozen organic eggs at various locations, consider the following prices reported by consumers from all over the United States:
- Whole Foods: organic eggs ($3.49); organic/cage-free eggs ($3.89); Vital Farms eggs ($6.99)
- Trader Joe’s ($4.29)
- Walmart ($4.50)
- Kroger ($4.60)
- Farmer’s market in Wisconsin ($3.50-$4.50)
- $4.00 for store-bought; $5.00 from a farmer in Texas
- $5.50 for certified organic, pastured eggs from a Michigan farmer that delivers nearby
- $5.99 with possible delivery in New York City
- $6.50 from a farmer in California
- Eggland’s Best Organic eggs from vegetarian-fed, cage-free hens ($4.68)
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Egg Market News Report, the average wholesale costs for a dozen organic brown eggs on a nationwide level are $2.30 to $3.50 (mostly between $2.65 and $3.00) for first receivers. To keep up with certified organic egg prices, the USDA publishes the weekly Poultry Market News & Analysis, which covers the wholesale market for poultry and eggs. New reports are released every Monday, and can be used to follow egg price trends.
What Affects the Price?
- Geography: Those who live in regions that typically have higher price points for groceries obviously encounter the highest prices for eggs. For instance, Alaskan shoppers pay around $6 per dozen of eggs, while Upstate New Yorkers pay around $4.00.
- Where You Buy: Typically, the price of eggs sold at the farmer’s market varies from higher to lower when compared to commercially-produced eggs at a supermarket. Smaller, family-owned farms generally sell organic eggs at a much higher price in order to turn a profit.
- Store Prices: The price for a dozen of eggs varies from store to store with the ability to decide when it’s time to offer a sale.
- Farmer Business Practices: When purchasing eggs from a local farmer, some offer various ways for consumers to cut costs. For example, one farm lowers the price of organic eggs by 50 cents when repeat customers bring back the cartons to reuse.
Ways to Save
- Coupons and Other Savings: Once in a blue moon, the Sunday newspaper will offer coupons to save money on organic eggs. Visiting a farmer’s market towards the end of the day may also result in finding deals on organic eggs, especially from farmers who have driven miles to deliver their produce.
- Buy in Bulk: Although the taste and overall experience of mass-market organic eggs are sometimes viewed as inferior to the organic eggs from family-owned farms, purchasing in bulk (like paying between $5 and $6 for 2 dozen eggs at Costco) can save money.
- Raise Your Own Organic Chickens:Although not a feasible solution for everyone, some have actually started raising their own chickens to produce organic eggs. Start-up costs include food, labor and housing, but in the end, some people feel the savings are much better in the long run.
The Health Benefits of Organic Eggs
While organic egg prices are higher than conventional eggs, the associated benefits are certainly well worth the extra cost if you’re looking to make a healthier purchase. Basically, when chickens are treated in a humane manner, such as having access to outdoor space to roam and flex their feathers, they produce healthier eggs that contain a higher level of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
A few health benefits that make the price of organic eggs easier to swallow include:
Higher Level of Sanitation: With more than 90 percent of eggs in the U.S. coming from caged hens, the smaller spaces birds are given to live and move around in are generally reprehensible. Not only does the health of the birds suffer, but there is also a health threat to consumers, such as a higher risk of Salmonella contamination.
More Nutritious: According to researchers, organic eggs from chickens raised on pasture are much more nutritious than eggs that come from caged birds. Not only are hens able to display natural behavior, including foraging for grasses and bugs which actually boosts vitamin and omega-3 fatty acid levels, but they also lead a life with fewer stresses that helps produce healthier eggs. Free-range organic eggs also have one-third of the cholesterol and one-fourth of the saturated fat as conventional eggs.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamins: According to a Penn State University study, organic eggs are much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids than conventional eggs, which is good for the heart. Organic eggs also contain 40 percent more vitamin A and two times as much vitamin E.
Reduced Chemical Exposure: Studies show that antibiotics often found in non-organic chicken feed can linger in a hen’s egg for up to seven days. Organic eggs are free of the chemical residues commonly found in conventional eggs tainted by antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful substances.
Taste: Last but not least, organic eggs have a different flavor, which is often noted as being ‘better.’ The diet that organically-fed hens receive produces a darker yolk with a richer taste.