What Does "Free Range" Eggs Actually Mean?
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available, and an excellent addition to your dog's diet. These days most people buy free range eggs choosing to pay a little extra so that the chickens live happy natural lives. And to sweeten the deal, new research shows that happy chickens make healthier eggs!
Unfortunately, the government just changed the definition of “free range” so that term doesn’t mean much now. When I think of free range eggs, I imagine chickens roaming around on grass, eating grubs and laying eggs. Living outside with room to move. You know, ranging freely! I’d imagine most people would have a similar image.
But according to the new rules, we’re wrong.
FREE RANGE AIN’T FREE
There are three important things chickens need to be healthy and make great eggs. They need to be free to roam, have regular access to the outdoors including grass and insects, and not be confined in high densities or cages. The new government regulations state that the outdoor density of chickens must be less than 10 000 hens per hectare. That's significantly higher than the 1500 per hectare recommended by the CSIRO, which nearly 7 times the amount of chickens per square metre. Not surprisingly, this decision benefits the largest egg producers.
The issue with free range on a massive scale is that the chickens aren't actually outside, they live in large barns. Access to the outside area is only through a small door in the wall, which is rarely used. The chickens stay where the food and shelter is, and simply don't make the journey to the outside area.
It’s simply not the free range life you think your chickens are living.
TRUE FREE RANGE
The key to buying true free range eggs is to check the stocking density. To ensure the welfare of the chicken (and to enjoy to healthier eggs), choose eggs that are marked as “less than 1500 chickens per hectare”. To make it easier at the supermarket, CHOICE have released a free app that does the work for you. Simply scan the pack and the app tells you if they are free range or not.
And if you can get pastured eggs, even better! Pastured chickens live outside, with access to seeds and grubs. We use pastured Echo Valley Farm eggs in Whoa Nelly! Dog Food. These lucky local chickens are fed an organic diet - including the grubs they catch - and have the most beautiful yellow yolks.
We’re so lucky in SEQ to have lots of great small scale producers nearby with fantastic quality chicken and eggs. So if you can, support our local farmers!