I paid so much for these eggs because they came from hens that were "pastured," meaning that they spent their days in pastures rather than chicken coops. (And please note that "pastured" is not the same as "free-range." Free-range means that the chickens are "offered" the opportunity to go outside of the coop via a trapdoor during certain periods of the day should they choose to do so. Given the intellectual capacity of a chicken, this is the same as offering them free cable.)
I decided that paying so much extra for eggs was worth it after reading this passage from Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma,
... [The American laying hen] spends her brief span of days piled together with a half-dozen other hens in a wire cage the floor of which four pages of this book could carpet wall to wall. Every natural instinct of this hen is thwarted, leading to a range of "vices" that can include cannibalizing her cage mates and rubbing her breast against the wire mesh until it is completely bald and bleeding...Pain? Suffering? Madness? The operative suspension of disbelief depends on the acceptance of more neutral descriptors, such as "vices" and "stereotypes" and "stress." But whatever you want to call what goes on in those cages, the 10 percent or so of hens that can't endure it and simply die is built into the cost of production. And when the output of the survivors begins to ebb, the hens will be "force-molted" -- starved of food and water and light for several days in order to stimulate a final bout of egg laying before their life's work is done.
Okay, please understand, I am not here to lecture you on the morality of buying eggs. The surest way to damn any cause you believe in is to become an extremest and start brow beating. I am saying that, along with other changes to my eating habits this year, I have also made this one. It is a personal choice.
It's not just altruism, however. These eggs taste really good. And given the varied diet the hens responsible for them enjoyed, and the lack of hormones and antibiotics, they are better for me too.
I'll shut up now, except to wish you all a great weekend.