Shopper catches supermarket charging double for eggs after changing packaging to ‘cage-free’


‘They’re tricking people’: Shopper catches supermarket charging double for eggs after changing packaging to ‘cage-free’

'We're being scammed on basically everything all the time.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Mar 2, 2024   Updated on Mar 3, 2024, 5:59 pm CST

When shopping for eggs, customers are hit with many terms with which they’re likely unfamiliar. For example, when a consumer sees the phrases “cage-free” and “free range” on a package of eggs, they may assume that the chickens that produced both sets of eggs lived under similar conditions.

This is not necessarily the case, TikTok user Tom (@sidemoneytom) notes—and the lack of awareness about this terminology may be costing shoppers a pretty penny at the grocery store.

In a video with over 100,000 views as of Saturday, Tom alleges that shoppers are being “scammed” when buying eggs. To prove this, he goes to his local supermarket and observes that his local brand recently changed its packaging, a move that he says meant heightened costs to consumers.

“They changed the look of the packaging here to say ‘cage-free,’ and [the] price went from $1.79 to now $3.99,” he states. He identifies this as a “B.S. term.”

“Some of you guys know ‘cage-free’ just means that they’re not in a tiny little cage,” he says. “Same thing with free-range—it means they have access to the outdoors. There’s no guarantee that they actually go out there or that they can even get out there.”

These terms, he says, are used to trick consumers into buying higher-priced goods for the same product. Some of the more expensive eggs, he says, are “basically the same as the cheap eggs, all the plain white eggs they sell at Costco in the two dozen and the five dozen pack.” He further notes that Costco eggs are cage-free.

“If you’re gonna spend extra on cage-free or free-range, you may as well spend a dollar two more and get something organic,” he concludes.

So is there truth to what Tom is saying? According to National Geographic, the labeling around eggs can get pretty tricky.

“The cheapest eggs at the grocery store, around $2-$4 depending on where you live, are generally those collected from hens bred in captivity—200,000 or more in one barn—with little to no access to sunlight,” the piece reads. Later, author Hannah Farrow notes that “Cage-free is the same quantity of hens in the same space as battery cages, but without the cages.”

While free-range may sound better than this, Farrow argues that this is often not the case.

“It gets tricky as third-party labels—like Certified Humane and American Humane—have different definitions for free-range than the USDA’s,” she writes. “The government agency’s label means the hens can’t be in cages and must be able to see the outside.”

“But in reality, these huge barns can have 200,000 or more hens,” says Kestrel Burcham, the director of domestic policy at organic industry watchdog group Cornucopia Institute, whom Farrow interviewed. “The space for the outdoors will be a little concrete porch that can maybe fit five hens.”

For those seeking eggs from chickens that had free access to land, one may want to look at pasture-raised eggs—even if they come with a heftier price tag.

“These hens have the largest access to the outdoors and aren’t subjected to the stress of confinement. The catch is that they’re also expensive to raise,” Farrow writes. “Farmers need more land, more management, and better protection from predators,” Burcham says.

@sidemoneytom What eggs are you buying #eggs #egg #grocery #groceries #grocerystore #fyp #food #foryou #dairy ♬ original sound – SideMoneyTom

Still, seeing “pasture-raised” or “pastured” doesn’t always mean what one thinks it does. Companies have been sued in the past for allegedly misrepresenting the conditions in which they raise chickens in their marketing, with some being accused of adding the words “pasture” to their packaging to disguise the fact that the eggs are really free-range.

In the comments section of Tom’s video, users shared their gripes about contemporary grocery shopping, especially when it comes to eggs.

“We’re being scammed on basically everything all the time everywhere,” a user wrote.

“I would absolutely pay more for humane treatment,” offered another. “Problem is lack of truth in advertising.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Tom via TikTok direct message.

Update 5:69pm CT, Mar. 3, 2024:

In a TikTok direct message exchange with the Daily Dot, Tom offered his thoughts on the price increases shown in the video.

“We all know of the inflation and shrinkflation going on, but certain things seem to be blatant outright price fixing/manipulation,” he wrote. “In this case the use of new labeling excuses a more than 100% price increase. People see value in the words ‘free range’ but if you dig a little deeper you’ll learn there’s basically nothing different about these eggs.”

As far as how consumers can learn more about this issue, Tom says that one possible solution could come in the form of better naming and labeling.

“I certainly think deciding on two terms would simplify the issue,” he explained. “Cage free/free range may never actually see daylight so I don’t think they should be labeled any different than regular eggs. Organic and pasture raised seem to be the terms that actually have some meaning.”

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*First Published: Mar 2, 2024, 8:00 am CST