My local Costco has two types of eggs for sale that vary greatly in price. The most expensive type is the Large Grade AA Cage Free Eggs and the less expensive type is the Organic Large Grade A Free Range Eggs.
I was curious what the difference was between these products so I did a little research that I thought other folks might find interesting. Keep reading and we will cover:
- Egg Prices at Costco
- Free Range vs Cage Free Eggs
- Grade A vs Grade AA Eggs
- Organic vs non Organic Eggs
- Where Does Costco Get Their Eggs
Let’s get started!
Costco Eggs Prices (May, 2023)
There has been an egg shortage going on for a while now and it has made egg prices extremely volatile. As of May, 2023 the prices of eggs at Costco are:
- 2 Dozen Cage Free Grade AA Eggs = $4.99
- 2 Dozen Organic Free Range A Eggs = $7.99
- 5 Dozen Grade AA Cage Free Eggs = $11.99
Buying larger quantities of eggs will not save you much money as the 2 and 5 dozen Cage Free eggs all cost about $0.20 per egg. The Organic Free Range eggs cost about $0.33 per egg.
The May, 2023 prices for Free Range eggs are about 35% lower than Costco’s January, 2023 prices. The price for the Organic Free Range eggs has not changed significantly.
These are great prices as a dozen of Cage Free eggs at a regular grocery store typically costs about $6 per dozen.
Costco’s Free Range vs Cage Free Eggs
Commercial egg production has historically been an exercise in animal cruelty with laying hens confined to small cages for most of their lives. As part of Costco’s commitment to animal welfare they have a corporate initiative to transition to selling only cage free eggs and they are making substantial progress towards the goal. (More information about Costco’s progress towards its cage free goal can be found here.)
The Cage Free commitment applies to both whole eggs and Kirkland Egg Whites.
Cage Free egg production typically takes one of two forms:
- Barn Raised Chickens with Access to the Outdoors
- Free Range Chickens Raised on Pasture
Let’s take a closer look at these two methods of egg production.
Barn Raised Chickens with Access to the Outdoors
One of Costco’s egg suppliers of Cage Free Eggs is Wilcox Family Farms.
In the video below you can see what the living conditions of the chickens used for Cage Free egg production. Personally I think the conditions are not bad at all!
The chickens are not confined in cages, appear to have plenty of space in the barns and can go outside to the fenced in porch if desired. These birds get all of their food and water provided by the farmers.
Free Range Chickens Raised on Pasture
Below is a look at the chickens used for Free Range egg production.
The chickens have a portable shed they can use for roosting in the evenings but spend their days roaming around in pastures. The chickens get to scratch around to catch and eat bugs and insects but also get supplemental food and water from the farmers.
These birds appear to have a much higher quality of life but also run the risk of being eaten by predators such as hawks, eagles, foxes, etc.
Costco’s Grade A vs Grade AA Eggs
The Cage Free eggs are Grade AA while the Free Range Eggs are Grade A.
The difference in Grade is based on the quality of the egg, not the size.
Specifically, the USDA says:
“U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells….
U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are reasonably firm.”
So basically Grade A and Grade AA are just about the same with the only meaningful difference being that the Grade AA eggs have firmer whites.
I suspect the reason that the Cage Free eggs are Grade AA is that the farmers have complete control over the food intake of these birds as compared to the Free Range birds that have a varied diet.
Organic vs Non-Organic Eggs at Costco
I was surprised to see that the Cage Free eggs are not labeled as Organic even though they often come from the same farms that produce the Free Range eggs that are Organic.
I did a little research and it looks like the issue has nothing to do with the animal feed or use of antibiotics but comes down to uncertainty over the definition of Organic Eggs.
The heart of the issue is that Organic eggs can only be produced from chickens that have adequate access to the outdoors. The phrase “adequate access to the outdoors” is wildly open to interpretation.
Many people believe that enclosed porches, like the one seen in the Cage Free Wilcox Farms video above, meet this definition perfectly as the chickens can go outside any time they want.
Many people believe that enclosed porches are not adequate and that the chickens must be able to go outside and scratch around in the soil.
The exact interpretation of what degree of outdoor access is required for an egg to be considered Organic keeps shifting. I suspect Costco is simply playing it safe by not putting an Organic designation on their Cage Free eggs.
Here is a link to a nice summary overview of the debate from PBS.
Where Does Costco Get Their Eggs?
Costco provided a full list of US based suppliers of eggs in their August, 2011 edition of Costco Connection. It is possible that some of the suppliers have changed since the publication of the article but the list provided then included:
Utah: Oakdell Egg Farms, Lewiston, Utah (www.oakdell.com).
Bay Area: Den Dulk Poultry Farms (www.dendulkpoultry.com) and NuCal Foods (www.nucalfoods.com),both in Ripon, California.
San Diego: Chino Valley Ranchers, Arcadia,California (www.chinovalleyranchers.com).
Texas: Soncrest Egg Co., Gonzales, Texas.
Northeast: Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, Monroe, New Hampshire (www.peteandgerrys.com).
Midwest: Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, Saranac, Michigan (www.goodeggproject.org), and Nature Pure LLC, Raymond, Ohio.
Southeast: L&R Farms, Pendergrass, Georgia (www.landrfarmsinc.com).