"Cage-free" - No more confined pens but still confined indoors their entire lives. Their feed may be filled with ground up chicken and animal parts if the label also does not say "vegetarian diet." The manufacturer simply took the cages out but like the caged birds, they are usually packed so tightly together ...
"Free-range" - The birds must have "access" to the outside by no requirement that they ever actually go outside. Free-range birds live in houses like cage-free birds, but they must have “access to the outdoors" . The key word here is “access.” There are doors in the chicken house that are opened after the chickens have grown accustomed to their surroundings but they almost never do since they feel safer with what they know and feel no compulsion to explore when their food and water are in the house.
"Pasture-Raised"- These are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
So to summarize, what you're really looking for is chicken and eggs that are both certified organic and true pasture-raised.
The accompanying organic egg scorecard rates companies that market name-brand and private-label organic “shell” eggs based on 22 criteria that are important to organic consumers. The scorecard showcases ethical family farms, and their brands, and exposes factory farm producers and brands in grocery store coolers that threaten to take over organic livestock agriculture.