Eggs. There are millions of choices in your local supermarket, vegetable store or butcher store, but do you know which is the healthiest choice for you and your family?
I am lucky to have enough space to raise chickens at home. This ensures my family has a plentiful supply of freshly laid eggs every day. I started keeping chickens last May, so I am still an amateur chicken keeper, but their health and wellbeing is of paramount importance to me. All my chickens are free to roam in a secured area where they are under ‘supervision’ by my Alpacas. I must admit I am using the word ‘supervision’ very loosely in this context because I have only had the Alpacas since December.
I believe free ranging is the best and also the most natural way for the Chickens to be. They are allowed to roam freely in pasture land. Their daily activities include scratching grass, digging for worms (and then chasing each other because one of them has a worm in their mouth – it is just so funny) and finding a nice spot for dust baths. I also pay a lot of attention to the feeds I give them. My chickens are fed on organic pellets and corns in order to avoid any genetic-modified (‘GM’) ingredients. You can learn more about GM food from my other post here. As my chickens are roaming freely, they get to eat a lot of grass and worms and therefore, the cost of feed is relatively low for me.
If keeping chickens for eggs is definitely out of the question for you, then the question you have in mind may be “what is the difference between organic, free range and normal eggs?”
One misconception that the general public often have is that Organic = Free Range. Organic and free range are different. If a chicken farm is selling organic eggs it does not necessarily mean the chickens are kept in a free range style. It merely means the chickens are raised and kept organically.
What is Free Range?
Free range chicken farms are the opposite to cage chicken farms (or battery chicken farms). Chickens are allowed to roam freely in the daytime in a secure setting meaning precautions have been taken to keep chickens safe from predators i.e. foxes.
The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) set out the regulations for free range poultry farms to provide 1 acre of pasture land for every 1000 hens. (My lucky girls have 1 acre between the 7 of them and 2 Alpacas!). The regulations also insist on providing warm chicken houses for those wet and windy days.
However, free range chicken eggs does not necessary mean they are raised organically.
What is Organic?
It means the chickens are fed on organic feeds which are free from chemicals, hormones and GM ingredients. To achieve the organic status, a farm must avoid using antibiotics or other medicines where possible. If however, antibiotic treatments are required, under the guidelines set out by DEFRA, an organic farm should cease to sell the eggs which are produced by the sick hen for a period twice as long as the recommended period for normal poultry farms. In the case of a normal poultry farm, the withdrawal period is 7 days from the last day of such medicine being administrated to the hens. For an organic poultry farm, the withdrawal period will therefore be 14 days.
As mentioned above, organically kept chickens may not be free range chickens, though most of them will be in the UK. Purchasing organic and free range eggs does not just affect your health in a positive way, but it also ensures that chickens’ welfare is protected as you are doing your part to support British organic free range farms. I trust you now know which kind of eggs you should reach for, when you are next doing your weekly grocery shopping!