Free Range Eggs – A Guide

When it comes to eggs, is free range really free range? How should we choose which eggs to buy? Here’s a few pointers to help you decide between free range, cage, organic and barn laid eggs.

Let’s start with some facts on battery farmed eggs so we can make informed decisions on whether or not to buy them. Battery hens and caged eggs are all horrific displays of animal cruelty. As many as seven battery farmed chickens are squashed into wire cages the size of a piece of A4 paper. There is no room for them to roam around as they would naturally in the wild. From so little movement in their confined space the chickens often have distorted feet, broken bones, unhealthy skin, and feathers falling out, not to mention the birds being de-beaked. Because of the health problems that arise from the living conditions, the chickens are fed antibiotics to try to prevent other disease outbreaks, and often hormones to promote growth.

free range egg

free range eggs in carton

In battery farms or caged egg farms, the chickens are de-beaked or their beaks are clipped to prevent them from becoming cannibalistic, or hurting of other chickens because of their cramped situation. The beaks are often clipped while the birds are fully conscious with no pain relief. De-beaking is still carried out by some free range producers, so even free range still has its’ flaws. It all depends on the actual producer, as here in Australia there is no standard that has to be met to legally label eggs free range, but generally free range means the birds have less density (more space), and have access to roam outside. Barn laid is a small step better from cage eggs, with the birds having more space. And organic free range means you’re getting eggs from chickens with a much more natural diet and living conditions.

I suppose it’s all about becoming aware of how your eggs are being produced, and what type of eggs are contained in the food you buy. Everyday grocery products like biscuits, mayonnaise, and ice cream all feature eggs. The big question is do they use free-range or organic eggs? Many do not. I called up Heinz and asked outright if they use free range eggs in their mayonnaise and they answered ‘oh we have never had someone call and ask that, but no we don’t.’ Where does your favourite breakfast cafe source their eggs from? There’s a growing awareness of getting more naturally produced food on our plates, but we are behind the curve. Europe has outlawed caged eggs completely, and it begs the question why hasn’t Australia yet? There are moves afoot to ban battery hens in Tasmania, so hopefully other states follow suit. At least when we look at our supermarket shelves half of our choice now is at least free range, but we still have a long way to go.

So have a good look at the carton of eggs you buy, as the choices we make can create change. Basically the bestest eggs would be from hens in our own backyard, no antibiotics, no hormones, fed what we choose and kept in a free roaming animal friendly home. But although the humble backyard chicken coop is growing in popularity, that’s not always possible, so the best bet is making informed choices that suit what we can afford and morally be comfortable with. Will it be caged? Free range? Organic? Or our own chickies? Our purchasing decisions can make a difference to an industry where some exploit; if we increase demand for food produced with care and respect, we can effect positive change.

All About Eggs – A General Guide for Choosing Which Eggs to Buy

Caged Eggs/Battery Hens

Chickens are de-beaked, kept permanently in tiny cages with 5 other birds, fed antibiotics and hormones.

Barn Laid Eggs

Chickens have more room to move around, and have access to perches, beaks are often clipped or removed, often fed antibiotics and hormones.

Free Range Eggs

Similar to barn laid eggs, but have access to outside areas for a certain time each day. Some free range operations still clip the bird’s beaks, other free range egg farmers are very dedicated to animal welfare. Corn-fed chickens aren’t free range unless this is also stipulated on the label.

Organic Free Range Eggs

Chickens roam outside, eat a much more natural diet, do not receive antibiotics or hormones, and are not de-beaked.

Home Grown Eggs

Up to you! Feed your chickens food scraps, grain, and let them spend their days roaming around your garden eating bugs, and they’ll repay you with beautiful eggs with creamy, yellow yolks.

Yikes! Heavy dudes I know, but something I thought was interesting, a little disturbing, and definitely something worth thinking about.

But now, let’s celebrate eggs with a delicious organic, free range egg sandwich! Yummy!

Herbed Egg Sandwich Recipe for Two

egg sandwich

3 hard boiled free range organic eggs
1 heaped dessert spoon of good quality Mayo
Chives, thyme, parsley (few sprigs of each)
Salt and pepper
Lettuce
Delicious multi-grain bread

Boil – eggs and de-shell
Mash – eggs and add mayo to combine
Chop – up all the herbs
Add – herbs to mayo and egg
Season – as needed
Pop – crispy lettuce onto bread and then egg mixture

Either eat as an open sandwich or full sandwich, the egg salad sandwich is delicious and goes perfectly with my rustic tomato soup recipe.

For more information on Australian free range egg options, check out Free Range Eggs.

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