Are your favourite eggs really free-range? The answer may surprise you!

Eco-Eggs

Chickens around the nation are celebrating this week with the announcement that at least one major egg producer cares about their working conditions.

Sunny Queen Farms has committed to reducing their stock density to 1500 birds per hectare, roughly the equivalent of a queen-size bed per bird and, here’s the amazing thing, in an actual outdoors space.

What’s that you say? Aren’t all free range egg chickens free to fluff up their feathers amid grass, scratch for grasshoppers and bathe in dust beneath the light of the sun?

Sadly, the answer is, “No”.

The vast majority of free-range egg layers in Australia are crammed into barns with 9999 of their mates. There’s an open door that holds the promise of an outdoor life but seeing as the food’s all inside and they’ve never actually been exposed to nature, most chooks never get to know the bounty beyond the barn.

The scary thing is that these are the free-range birds we’re talking about. Cage eggs are another story. But cage eggs are out of favour with the Australian public. Woolworths and Coles have declared that they will phase out cage eggs for good. Is it a coincidence that, at the same time, politicians are working with Big Egg to set an official standard for free-range eggs of… 10,000 birds per hectare. That’s one square metre per bird – think about it, that’s not a lot of space, although they are doing better than cage hens, which make do with an area the size of an A4 piece of paper.

The CSIRO, along with consumer watchdog Choice, are pushing for the standard to be 1500 birds per hectare, which would give the hens a nice life of pecking and dust baths. Who do you think is going to win?

So how do you know if the eggs you’ve paid top dollar for are the real deal?

Choice has come to the rescue with a fantastic list of free-range eggs that are – or aren’t – all they’re cracked up to be.

Good Eggs

These tend to be the small producers, available in their home states. Organic and biodynamic eggs feature heavily. Among the larger producers (I’m happy to give credit where credit’s due) Macro Organic Free-Range Eggs are on the Good Egg list, as are McLean Run and, of course Sunny Queen Farms.

Bad Eggs

There aren’t many surprises here but one shocker that stands out is Eco Eggs, which boasts about superior-quality eggs yet maintains 10,000 birds per hectare. Eco Eggs won a Choice Shonky Award last year in honour of this and the fact they are outrageously expensive at $1.37 per 100g.

Also on the Bad Egg list are Aldi, Woolworths, Coles and Pace Farms Free Range eggs, plus plenty more.

To see how your favourite free-range eggs stacked up, check out the Choice list here.

What do you think when you read “free-range”? Are you surprised to learn that so many chooks never see the light of day?

 

Comments

  1. matt says

    there’s 10,000 square metres in a hectare. there’s 10,000 birds per hecatre. i reckon my grade 2 kid could work out the answer. (hint: it isn’t an A4 sized sheet of paper). what could have been a great article, but now with no credibility. maybe you should get PETA in with some plastic chooks on A4 sheets for a photo shoot? #reallamb

    • (dt)em says

      Hi Matt, thanks for your comment and pointing out my error, which I have now corrected. There’s really no need to be snarky, life’s too short for that #justsayin

  2. Jill says

    My favourite eggs are definitely free range, with 25 acres freely available to 9 chickens, but by choice they only utilize about 5 acres of that. They love to hang about near my back door, hoping for scraps to come out, even though there is plenty of grass and bugs to eat. They stand and look in the window. Nosey creatures they are! If you let them they’d be happy to come right inside the house. We love our chooks… don’t care much for the flies they encourage to hang around the house mind you!

    • (dt)em says

      Hi Jill, They sure are curious creatures! I haven’t tried this, but here in Vanuatu they have a trick for keeping flies away – you get a plastic bag, fill it with water and put a few coins inside, then hang it up outside. I have no idea if it works, but it might be worth a shot!!

  3. Susan says

    Yes I read with great interest these findings last week! Was totally surprised about Eco Eggs which I sometimes buy when my favourites are out of stock, speaking of which – my two top choices were on the safe list PHEW! Sunny Queen and my latest fave (they’re really cheap!) Southern Highland Organics. I can now rest easy at night :)

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