Know your eggs. Part two
Back to the eggs... to the chickens who lay the eggs, that ultimately end up in your body. I have three main concerns for the welfare of hens used in egg production:
stocking densities; how crowded the birds are
painful practices; are the hens being subjected to beak trimming and wing clipping
access to outdoors; is access provided and if so in what manner
I see these as the critical factors that underlie whether the hens have the ability to fulfil their natural instincts; flapping their wings, nesting privately, dust bathing, foraging for food, walking on grass, breathing fresh air and avoiding mutilation!
When it comes to choosing which eggs to purchase, applying this "filter" completely wipes out any eggs that have been laid in battery cagesor barn laid, as the hens trapped in these production methods suffer from overcrowding, mutilations and have no access to the outdoors. Their life is filled with suffering and void of the ability to fulfil their natural behaviours.
For me, this also means not supporting a company who profits from these production methods - even if they also sell free-range or organic lines. The big egg companies, of which 3 dominate the market, have numerous different brands and ranges - but ultimately still profit from the cruelty employed in their battery cage and barn ranges. It is a personal choice, but if I can buy from a farmer who treats every hen in the same ethical manner, then of course, they are who I want to support with my shopping dollar. HOWEVER... it is always a step in the right direction to buy the organic line, even when sold by a company that isn't exclusively applying the ethics of organic production. If they see an increase in profit coming from eggs produced with higher welfare standards, then they will slowly start increasing this manner of farming...
For human health my concerns are:
the overall health of the chicken
the diet of the chicken
It is common sense that the by-product of a hen that is over-worked, stressed and diseased, such as those in factory farms, is not going to be one of quality. It is also not healthy that these chickens are fed pellets of other dead chickens, genetically modified, pesticide sprayed soy and grains, artificial colour-additives and antibiotics. This isn't a natural diet for hens and studies have shown it results in a less healthy egg.
So eliminating battery cage and barn laid, another option is free-range. If you read the news or mylast blog you will know that Australia does not have a legally enforced definition of "free-range" and while the code suggests a stock density of 1,500 birds per hectare, Coles and Woolworth's set their own standard at 10,000 chickens per hectare and many companies stock at up to 40,000 hens per hectare and still classify themselves as free-range. It is up to the individual farmer to choose what to feed their hens. Often beak trimming is still undertaken and the only access provided to the outdoors is via small openings in the sheds. Free-range pastured eggs, means that the hens live on pasture, on the land, and are moved every few days to enrich the soil. They can dust bathe, scratch and forage and eat a natural diet of worms and grubs. So not all free-range is equal and that sucks for a consumer as you will probably be paying the same price for both versions.
The below photo visually shows the difference between the Coles Free Range Farm (upper photo) and Possum Creek Free Range Farm.
The next step up is organic, where according to certified standards, the hens must be raised under natural conditions, allowing for the fulfilment of natural behaviours and social interaction, providing free access to open range pasture during daylight hours, being stocked at no more than 1,000 birds pre hectare and practices such as beak trimming are prohibited. Feed must be organic and antibiotics may not be used.
To help in the search for what to buy, look out for organic or free-range pastured eggs and beware of tricky marketing.
AVOID CAGE EGGS AND BARN LAID EGGS
BE CAREFUL WITH FREE-RANGE EGGS
ORGANIC OR PASTURED EGGS ARE THE WAY TO GO
Below I have categorised some of the more common eggs available on the Australian market. I recommend getting to know your farmer - then you can have confidence when eating their eggs.
EGGS TO AVOID
Battery cage and barn laid. I personally also advocate to not buy "free-range" that stock over 1,500 birds per hectare (generally between 10,000 and up to 40,000), provide limited access outdoors and still undertake mutilations.
You can look at this great website that looks at the labels and welfare standards of the egg companies.
BATTERY AND BARN
Pace Omega 3, Pace Cage Free, Pace Cage Eggs, Pace Farm Liberty, Farm Pride Barn Laid, Farm Pride Freshly Laid Cage, Sunny Queen Cage Free, Sunny Queen Barn Laid, Golden Egg Farm, Mmm Farm Barn Laid, McGrath Foundation Pink Pack, Coles RSPCA Barn Laid, Just For You
SO CALLED "FREE RANGE"
F Pirovic and Sons, Eggs by Ellah, Swan Vally Free Range ( these 3 are being investigated for misleading conduct), Manning Vale Free Range, Pace Farm Free Range, Farm Pride, Woolworths Select, Coles Free Range, Field Fresh, Busselton Free Range, Vegi Egg Farm, Hunter Valley, Country House, Jumbo Eco Egg, Golden Egg Farms, Essential Foods, Silverdale, Valley Brook.
BETTER CHOICE EGGS
TRUE FREE RANGE, PASTURED AND/OR ORGANIC
Organigrow, Katham Springs, Ovaston Organics, Egganic, Home on the Range, Fryars Kangaroo Island Free Range, Real Free Range Eggs, 12 Good Eggs, Berrima Ridge, Brigadoon, Buena Vista Farm, Clarendon Organics, Cornocopia Biodynamic, Farmer Browns Pastured Eggs, Hayters Hill, Oaks Organics, Oxhill Organic, Possum Creek, The Happy Chook Company, Daylsford Organics, Family Homestead, Merri Bee Organic , Happy Valley
Or you could raise your own chickens:) Check out Very Edible Gardens for tips on back garden chickens
This quick little movie is a small light insight to the story of an egg
While many companies are honourable to their word, others are not. This video looks inside a major producer of free-range eggs, that in my view, should NOT be called free-range.