05 October 2013

Free Range?

Free Range Eggs

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago got me thinking. I don't actually read the newspaper or watch the news on TV. I call it the bad news. I'll never forget an interview I heard once with a psychologist who was not surprised at the the number of people who struggle through their day having been woken by their clock radio telling them all the bad things that are happening in the world.

Wow I can see how people can digress in this blog thing.

What are Free Range Eggs?

I should have the answers. Some of the facts are relatively simple:

Certified Organic eggs are always free range. Something that I find people still don't understand. There are 7 different certifiers and logos in Australia.

Free Range Farmers Association , FREPA , Humane Choice, and others have strict regulations limiting numbers between 750 to 1500 hens per hectare. Check the Sustainable Table's site for a good comparison table.

Stocking rate is important but doesn't actually take into account grazing management.

Certified Organic producers are independently audited and inspected every year. As for the others, it's not so clear.

Eggs that say Free Range but don't have any Accreditation Logo could be anything.

But even these facts aren't that simple to find, or to understand, and I'll admit I might not even have the facts all right, and I am an egg farmer.

No wonder the consumers are bewildered and choice has made a super complaint (great name) about the situation.

Understandably producers are scrambling to identify themselves, with new labels such as Pasture Ranged Organic, and Beyond Organic. But I'm not sure if this helps or just adds to the confusion. I mean what exactly is beyond organic anyway?

If you're waiting for my wise conclusion you might have to wait till I'm older and more cynical because as I heard Tim Minchin say recently to his old Uni;

"A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others.
Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.
Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege."
I think these may be some of the wisest words I've heard in a while, and what this means to me is that I don't have the answers, I'm still trying to figure it all out.

I could tell you that the best thing to do would be to get to know you're local farmer, shop at farmers markets, do you're research, even visit the farms you buy from, and these things probably will help you make an informed choice.

Or I could say that you should raise your own chickens and that is the ultimate way to know where you're eggs come from.

BUT I don't believe I should tell you to do anything. Do what you want. If it's important to you you will try, like me, to figure it out for yourself and not be told what is best for you.

Well what a rant. When you sit down and start writing like this it can certainly open up a can of worms, but as the earth would not exist without worms, maybe that's a good thing.

Farmer Bren


Lady Lunchalot said...

An easy way to check the quality of eggs is with a taste test. I bought so called free range eggs for years and thought they were great until a friend gave me some from his backyard chooks. No comparison in colour or flavour!

Anonymous said...

The supermarket and their labelling of items confuses me daily. Organic, free range, omega 3, barn raised and the list goes on. The egg section in the supermarket used to be quite sparse, now there are many little egg packets all labelled confusingly to bewilder the consumer. I could easily also digress here and have a major rant about the monopoly of our major supermarkets here in Australia but I will save that for another post. The confusion leads me away from the supermarkets giants. We are fortunate in Melbourne to have amazing alternatives to the convenience of a Coles or Safeway. Farmers markets are a great source of products and you can get educated as a consumer along the way. I think now people are becoming more aware in general about the food being consumed & are looking and prepared to pay more for organic produce where possible.
Loved the rant Farmer Bren and I look forward to many more contributions from you!

Amber said...

Eating in general seems to be an increasingly confusing matter! I agree - get to know your local farmers or grow your own!

JustForDaisy said...

Thanks for this. We're blessed to receive eggs often from our neighbours. When we don't we buy certified organic. I really want chooks of our own but hubby not so keen. Thanks for the info Farmer Bren. Loving reading your thoughts! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Farmer Bren, I have 3 chickens (backyard) in the inner west of sydney.I am going crazy! Not sure if you can help me, but 2 of the chickens have developed white fluffy feathers (they have been laying for 2 months now) between where their tails start and their backs. Do you know what it could be? Is it some kind of feral lice infestation? Ahhhhh. thank u! (PS i would love to do what you guys do ... but can you imagine ... only 3 chickens and i am terrified!

Anonymous said...

Oops me again. (freaked out girl from the inner west with 3 chickens). Do you know anything about chickens getting champhobacter or giardia? My kids got gastro and one tested positive or champh. and another for giardia. So I blame the chickens! so do you know what I would treat them with? I know, big questions. I don;t expect you to the know the answers, but thanks for reading! (I am not too scared to eat the eggs, so am throwing them away ... I know... total farming disaster!)

Rohan said...

Please keep blogging. I laughed my head off with that last one. Love ya Bren!

Michelle said...

Beyond organics! I love that one. I know a mainstream chemical loving farmer round here who uses that term for his produce. Crazy.

But know you're farmer is really the best solution. I love your words.

Michelle said...

I mean know your farmer! You already know you are a farmer!
Sheesh, such bad grammar.

Frances said...

Agree with Ro, Bren - you must keep blogging!!

daylesford organics said...

I sort of agree. You cant taste herbicides and almost all chickens( even cert. organics ones) are fed with ingredients in their feed that change the yolk colour.

daylesford organics said...

Hi, firstly I am not an expert in diagnosis. People often ask me about backyard chicken problems and its very difficult without seeing them. Observation is the key tool with any animal husbandry. I would say though that fluffy feathers is usually their new feathers after they malt..very normal. Lice are easily seen if you part their feathers, and if they have somewhere to dust bath themselves it shouldn't be a problem.

daylesford organics said...

Oh. Don't know about this one.

daylesford organics said...

Thanks Mate.

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