Making kind choices in your everyday life.

How to buy the free-est of free range eggs

Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Eggs | 0 comments

“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” – J K Rowling

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These photos depict some very lucky, happy chooks. They sleep in an enclosed yard with a cosy shelter and run rampant during the day on the property. They live (and supplied our morning eggs) at my favourite “escape from Sydney” getaway – Mill Paddock Cottage, in Mountain Lagoon.

If, like me, you are not lucky enough to have sufficient land and/or knowledge to house your own band of merry egg producing chooks, you need to buy eggs from the shop.  Many people (actually 60% according to a recent Choice survey) make the effort to only buy free range eggs which is a wonderful thing and shows that peoples’ views are changing as industries become exposed and we become more educated about what really goes on in the despicable world of factory farming.

However, this perplexing world we live in does not like to make things easy for us to be kind. Labeling is confusing and deceptive and uses words such as “farm fresh”, “vegetarian” and “eco”  to try and conjure up an image which is far from reality. Businesses prey on people’s desire to do the right thing. There are no standardised guidelines about what “free range” actually means.

Most of the free range eggs you see in the major supermarkets (at around the $5 – $6 a dozen price range) fit into the highly questionable box in my opinion. In fact, half of the free range eggs sold in Australia come from only 3 producers (Novo, Pace Farm and Manning Valley) and some squeeze 20,000 – 40,000 birds into a hectare despite the Model Code capping it at 1,500 birds per hectare.  Although Coles and Woolies appear to be do the right thing by banning the sale of their own branded caged eggs, they have set their own, arbitrary stocking density rates at 10,000 birds / hectare (this equates to 1 bird per square meter). At such high numbers, the vision one would expect from the description of free range is not viable.

So, to make the right choice, first check out this chart put out by Animals Australia which simplifies the egg world jargon.

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Furthermore, there are reliable accreditation bodies which can point you in the right direction. Humane Choice and Certified Organic have the most rigorous standards – including low stocking densities, no beak or wing clipping and independent audits and are a great place to start in terms of buying genuinely free range eggs. To compare the 6 accreditation bodies so you are further informed, just click here for Sustainable Table’s great guide.

This guide – Animal Welfare Labels is very informative about many of the eggs you would of seen on the supermarket shelves.

This guide from Flavour Crusader is a fantastic one for exploring all the smaller, independent egg producers available out there.

My little family goes through about a dozen eggs in 10 days. I usually buy either Organigrow, Egganic or Organic Eggs from Clarendon Farms  (I find them at Thomas Dux supermarket) as they tick all the right boxes for me and I feel confident that I am actually getting what I pay for (which is around the $9-$10 / dozen mark). As is a running theme in my blog, the kindest options are overwhelmingly the most expensive ones (for good reason) so just eat less of a good thing – or even eat none at all. This is what Part 3 of this egg topic will be about. Why do some people choose not to eat eggs ? How does one cook without this apparently staple ingredient ? What about all the products we buy that contain caged eggs ?

As for wanting free range eggs when you are out and about at your favourite cafe or restaurant, the RSPCA do have their Shop Humane initiative to locate cafes who use “humanely produced” (I use this term loosely and with some reservation) animal products including eggs. I like the Organigrow link which shows which restaurants /cafes which use their genuinely free range eggs. Otherwise, unless you ask, the assumption would have to be that they use caged eggs.

I have gathered together some interesting articles which I found interesting  in case you want to be the best informed free range egg buyer around.  I would love your feedback on this topic – what do you look for when buying eggs ?

10,000 eggs to a hectare is no free range : ACCC

Plan hatched to crack row over egg labelling (SMH)

Free range egg definition change rejected  (SMH)

With Eggs, some chooks are freer than others (SMH)

– Interesting contrast of opinion between the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd and the Free Range Egg and Poultry Ass. of Australia

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