About Our Eggs
How is pasture-raised different from free range or cage-free?
Pasture-raised eggs are laid by hens that spend their days outdoors roaming the pastures as they please. Our pasture-raised girls get a minimum of 108 square feet EACH – unlike free range and cage-free birds that have far less freedom. Free range hens typically get a minimum of 2 square feet per bird and have limited access to the outdoors. Cage-free birds get a minimum of 1.2 square foot per bird and may rarely, if ever, see the sunlight. We make sure our girls have access to fresh air and sunshine year-round.
In certain situations, when the health and safety of the girls are at risk, we may have to keep them temporarily indoors. We make these decisions based on state and local guidance as well as the guidance of our veterinary partners and Certified Humane, who audits our animal welfare practices. These situations are rare and only in the event of significant risk to the girls, such as a weather or health emergency.
What’s a double yolk?
It’s like a four-leaf clover, but tastier! Double yolks usually come from young flocks that are just beginning to lay. Until the hens get the timing just right and learn how to lay, two eggs may merge together in the hen’s oviduct, meaning she’ll lay one large egg with two yolks hidden inside. Don’t be surprised if you see multiple eggs with double yolks in a single carton – they all came from the same young flock.
Why aren’t all eggs the same size?
A hen’s age is the main factor that determines egg size. Young hens that are just beginning to lay tend to produce smaller eggs, and, ironically, a few jumbos as well. To keep your cartons consistent, we do our best to grade out the eggs so you only get eggs of a certain size. Because our eggs are natural and not from a factory farm, you may see some variation in egg size.
Why do your eggs taste so good?
We believe our eggs taste so good because our pasture-raised hens live happy, healthy lives! Our girls’ fresh-air lifestyle is full of foraging and feasting on natural goodness, which shines through in every egg. If you’ve never cracked open a pasture-raised egg, your culinary life is about to change.
Why are the eggs brown?
While it’s true that a hen’s ear-lobe color will tell you what color their eggs will be, that’s not the reason behind the color. An egg’s color is determined by the breed. Most of our hens are Hy-line Browns – and it’s in their genetics to lay brown eggs.
Where are your farms?
All of our family-owned farms are in the pasture belt, which is the U.S. region, including Arkansas and portions of Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, where pasture-raised eggs can be produced year-round. Learn more about the Pasture Belt here.
Eating Our Eggs
Where can I find your eggs?
You can find our eggs in grocery stores nationwide – both natural and mainstream. Use our store locator to find a grocer near you that carries our pasture-raised goodness.
Can you deliver eggs?
Currently, we’re not able to deliver directly to your doorstep. However, if you use a grocery delivery app, you may be able to have our eggs delivered right to you! Check out our store locator to see which nearby stores carry our products.
What’s the difference between your egg types?
The type of supplemental feed our girls receive is what differentiates our three egg types from one another. All our girls forage for their own food in the outdoors, but they also receive supplemental feed to help round out their diets. The girls who lay our USDA Certified Organic Pasture-Raised Eggs receive a supplemental feed that’s USDA Certified Organic, and are raised on farms which are also Organic-certified. The hens who lay our Non-GMO Project Verified Pasture-Raised Eggs are given a feed and raised on a farm that’s Non-GMO Project Verified. The birds that lay our Original Pasture-Raised Eggs are fed a supplemental feed that’s carefully formulated to keep them happy and healthy. Regardless of the type of egg, our farmers refrain from using pesticides or herbicides on their pastures, and, all of our eggs are Certified Humane and hormone free.
Do you wash your eggs?
Yes. USDA regulations require that we wash our eggs before we pack them. Washing does remove the eggs’ natural protective layer (called the ‘cuticle’ or ‘bloom’), which is why they must be refrigerated.
Feed and Certifications
What do your girls eat?
Our hens spend their days foraging in the pastures, seeking out native and seasonal grasses like clover, rye and wild onion. They don’t stop with plants though! You’ll often catch our girls munching on a grasshopper or snacking on a worm. Alongside the food they forage, our girls receive supplemental feed. The supplemental feed consists primarily of corn and unprocessed soybean meal which the hens need for protein as well as additional natural ingredients including paprika and marigold which, along with their outdoor snacks, provide nutrients and help the hens produce eggs with deep orange yolks that our consumers prefer. Our supplemental feed is developed by an animal nutritionist, ensuring the girls receive all the nutrients they need to support their health, active lifestyles, and overall wellbeing.
Does the yolk color vary on each egg?
Everything a hen eats including pasture grazing and supplemental feed impacts yolk color. Because the girls are pasture-raised, it’s natural for yolk color to vary. This variation is affected by how often hens eat and what they eat. In the summer, the girls tend to eat less due to the warmer temperatures. In the winter, they tend to eat more to stay warm. The girls eat a variety of seasonal and localized vegetation and critters as they are roaming through the pasture, as well as supplemental feed. The supplemental feed consists primarily of corn and unprocessed soybean meal which the hens need for protein as well as additional natural ingredients including paprika and marigold which, along with their outdoor snacks, provide nutrients and help the hens produce eggs with deep orange yolks that our consumers prefer. Our supplemental feed is developed by an animal nutritionist, ensuring the girls receive all the nutrients they need to support their health, active lifestyles, and overall wellbeing.
Is there soy in the their feed?
Yes, our feed does contain unprocessed soymeal, which we’ve found to be the best source of the essential proteins and amino acids our girls need to lay.
What is Certified Humane®?
Certified Humane® is considered the gold standard in animal welfare . Certified Humane® standards are set by a scientific committee of internationally renowned animal scientists, veterinarians and researchers. Each of our farms undergoes an extensive application, inspection and verification process each year to ensure that we meet or exceed all of the Certified Humane® standards for pasture-raised laying hens. We’re proud to carry the Certified Humane® seal on all of our cartons. Read more about Certified Humane® standards for hens and other animals on their website.
What is Non-GMO Project Verified?
Non-GMO Project is a trusted verification for consumers looking to avoid GMO products. For eggs, the Project verifies that our girls are fed a Non-GMO diet conducting annual inspections of the feed mill that produces our supplemental feed. They also perform traceability audits at our packing facilities to ensure that we only pack non-GMO eggs into our non-GMO cartons. We’re proud to be the first in the U.S. to offer Non-GMO Project Verified pasture-raised eggs.
What kind of hens do you have?
Most of our girls are Hy-line Browns.
What happens to the girls in winter?
They go outside! Our girls live in warmer-weather states (an area we like to call the Pasture Belt) where the winters are mild. Day in and day out, our girls freely forage for fresh grasses, seeds and protein-packed critters.
How do you keep your girls safe?
We take many steps to ensure the health and safety of the girls. In fact, we have an entire team dedicated to supporting our farmers through weekly phone calls, monthly in-person visits, quarterly meetings, a seasonal newsletter, and a bi-annual survey. We provide guidance on care for the girls in all of these touchpoints.
On all farms, we take measures to proactively prevent predators and pecking.
Because the risk of predation is highest at night, our girls are taught from a young age to come indoors before sunset. We also regularly patrol our farms and use harmless countermeasures (like dummy owls!) to keep aerial predators at bay.
To protect the girls from pecking each other, we follow an industry-standard practice of dulling the tips of their beaks. We follow this process to reduce the beak’s sharpness, so hens don’t hurt themselves. See more information on beak trimming from Certified Humane, one of our auditors, here.
Finally, we work with an external veterinary partner who visits farms regularly with our farm support crew and is also available on an on-call basis. The services help educate our crew and quickly aid farmers in need.
What happens to male chicks?
We believe in improving the lives of people, animals, and the planet through food. For animals, this means we partner with over 200 small family farmers to give laying hens a meaningfully better life than the confinement they would face in the industrialized food system. Each hen our small family farm partners raises enjoys at least 108 square feet of open pasture, fresh green grass, and the freedom to come and go from comfortable barns as they please.
To answer what happens to male chicks, we want to provide some background on how and when laying hens make their way to our small family farm partners.
Hens start out at a hatchery, a place where chicks are hatched for the purpose of laying eggs. Because only female hens can lay eggs, chicks are sorted by gender once they are hatched. Female chicks, also known as pullets, are then transported at one day old to a pullet house for 17 weeks. A pullet house is a specialized farm that raises the girls from day-old chicks until they are about 17 weeks of age, when our small family farm partners are ready to receive them. The girls spend the next several weeks inside the barn nest training where they are kept warm, can play, and spend time learning how to lay eggs.
Because male chicks will not grow to become egg laying hens, it is the industry norm for hatcheries to cull them shortly after they hatch through means deemed acceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Despite industry research and testing led by universities and scientists to explore alternatives to this practice, to our knowledge, all hatcheries in the U.S. cull male chicks because a commercially viable alternative has yet to be identified.
And while we do not own or operate a hatchery of our own or control the means of culling that the hatcheries use, we recognize and take seriously our role in advocating for a more ethical food system, which includes doing what we can to identify alternatives to male chick culling.
In 2017, we founded Ovabrite to partner with scientists and universities to explore alternatives to culling, such as identifying ways to accurately predetermine the sex of a chick before it hatches. While we are no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Ovabrite, we are a shareholder and maintain a close connection to their team of scientists who continue to research viable industry solutions. We are also encouraged that researchers in Europe have made progress in beta technology that can predetermine sex before a chick is hatched.
While the practice of male culling is a reality of today’s food system that has been difficult to solve, we remain committed to advocating for an end to this industry practice, investing in research to explore viable industry solutions, and supporting alternatives that can be adopted at scale.
We are committed to ethical food production and continuously raising the standards for ourselves and the food system. We believe we’ve made significant progress in fulfilling our mission to bring ethical food to the table—whether it’s providing meaningful economic opportunities for small family farmers, giving laying hens a quality life on pasture when they are with our small family farmers, or supporting the communities around us.
What happens when a hen has reached its post laying life?
Vital Farms began with one small family farm and a mission to bring ethically produced food to the table. Over the years, we believe we’ve played an important role in improving the lives of people, animals, and the planet by prioritizing our stakeholders—farmers and suppliers, crewmembers, communities and the environment, customers and consumers, and stockholders—and treating them as partners.
We partner with over 200 small family farmers who share our passion for animal welfare and sustainable farming practices. Starting when the girls arrive at one of these farms at about 17 weeks of age, we think they live just about the best life possible for a laying hen—they enjoy acres of open pasture, fresh green grass, and the freedom to come and go from comfortable barns as they please.
But farming is not always as straightforward as the picture postcard of hens roaming in fields of flowers. While we’ve prided ourselves in never taking the easy way out and in doing what we can to change our small corner of the farming world whenever we see the opportunity, there are biological and economic realities, and, at times, the two collide.
As the amount and quality of eggs our hens lay naturally decline with age, there comes a point when the hens can no longer produce eggs in an economically viable way for our small family farm partners. In our early days, when we had just a couple of farm partners located near urban areas, we would place an advertisement on Craig’s List and find homes for our retiring ladies with backyard farmers. Today, for several reasons including current FDA restrictions, that method no longer makes sense. So, when retirement time comes for these laying hens, our small family farmer partners have little choice but to ‘retire’ their flock en masse either through an acceptable method of euthanasia or by selling them to pet food companies, which we believe helps make use of this precious resource.
We consider the end of our hens lives as sacred as the rest of their time with us and will advocate for any viable alternatives to a hens’ post-laying life that are sustainable for our farm partners, the hens, and communities at large.
How do I become a farmer?
Ready to join our flock? Click here to learn more about becoming a Vital Farmer.
About Our Butter
What makes your butter so special?
Thanks for asking! Vital Farms butter starts with cows who are ethically raised on family farms. Those four-legged ladies supply a rich cream for our 6th generation butter-makers to churn into something special. With 85% butterfat, we believe our rich and creamy butter can’t be beat.
What do the cows eat?
The American family farmers who raise these cows know what’s best for their herds. So, for their health and well-being, they work with nutritionists to ensure the cows are given a balanced diet consisting of pasture, silage, hay, grain, vitamins, and minerals. We believe that a balanced diet for a dairy cow leads to premium high butterfat milk and a healthy, happy cow!
How often are the cows milked, and how is it done?
Dairy cows are normally milked twice a day (they can get uncomfortable otherwise). All of the farms we work with use modern milking equipment and our dairy farmers use best practices and the highest standards to make milking time-efficient, enjoyable for the cows, and extremely clean to keep the cows healthy.
Which breeds are the cows on these farms?
Healthy, happy Jerseys and Holsteins are the most common. These gorgeous girls transform grass, feed, and water into high-quality, high-butterfat milk, which we convert into cream that in turn, makes our high-quality butter.
Is your butter Non-GMO?
Our butter is not third-party certified by The Non-GMO Project. This is because we do not require the girls’ daily feed to be non-GMO at this time. We rely on our farmers, most of whom are multi-generational dairy farmers, to know what is best for their land and herds.
How long will Vital Farms butter last in the fridge or freezer?
Though our general rule of thumb is six months in the fridge (a little longer if salted), our recommendation is to always enjoy our butter by the expiration date on the package and store it in the refrigerator. Check your butter packaging for an official date.
Are your butter wrappers compostable?
Our butter cartons are recyclable. The wrappers are not compostable due to their wax coating. We’re exploring alternatives to ensure our packaging is as recyclable or compostable as possible.
How are the cows treated on your farms?
Animal welfare is and has always been an important part of our farming practices.
Our farmer’s cows are able to express their natural behaviors, socialize with their herd, and have plenty of room to eat, drink, and lie down in a clean, dry space whenever they desire. They have plenty of water and food, which is provided under the guidance of a nutritionist. Finally, they are never given any growth hormones. Some of the farmers in our network are able to give their cows outdoor access because they are located in regions with a milder climate, while others cannot due to more extreme temperatures.
All of the family farms we work with to produce our butter products uphold the following animal welfare standards for cream supply: following the Five Freedoms of animal welfare and adhering to the FARM Animal Care Program version 4.0.
Learn more about the FARM Animal Care Program version 4.0 here.
Do the cows have outdoor access?
Of all the farms in our network, some have outdoor access, and some do not. We work with two different farm networks to source cream for our butter. One of these networks is located in Ohio and has been a supplier of ours since we established our butter business in 2015, upholding our dairy standards. The second farm network is a new supplier we carefully selected for their ability to uphold similar farming standards, as well as their impressive sustainability initiatives. These dairy farms are located in New York where the cows spend their days in the barn, protected from the more extreme temperatures in the area. The cows are allowed to express their natural behaviors, socialize with their herd, and have plenty of room in the barns to eat, drink, and lie down in a clean, dry space whenever they desire.
Do you still work with family farmers for butter?
Yes! Family farms are an essential part of our mission to bring ethically produced food to the table. We work with American family farmers located in Ohio and New York. Many of them have been multi-generational farms for decades. These family farmers share our passion for animal welfare, sustainable farming practices and are committed to continuous improvement.