Nowadays we have so much choice when shopping and this also includes the eggs we buy. If you are like me you might not really know what the difference is, so I decided to do a bit of research. We know organic is natural but what does free-range really mean. Are these the same? What is the difference?
In Australia, the most popular egg is the free-range egg and consists of 47% of the retail sales. So let’s look at the free-range egg first.
Free-Range production is a method of food production whereby the hens are outdoors during daylight hours and can enjoy the open air and peck around freely and are comfortably housed at night. Having them housed also makes it easier to collect the eggs as the hens will lay their eggs in their nest boxes and are safe from prey. The CSIRO and The Egg Corporation Assured Standard says there should be a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare outside and inside a maximum of 14 birds per square metre inside. There are different standards such as the RSPCA who agree on the outside number of hens but say inside should only be 9 hens per square metre.
They are fed a mixture also of grains and their diet is supplemented with green and insects but generally, get all of their energy needs from the feed inside. Depending on how much greens and insects are consumed will determine how yellow the yolk is.
Organic farming is a complete farming ethos whereby the total production system works in harmony with nature and with our environment. Organic feed is grown without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. Therefore the paddocks for the hens must be an organic paddock and free from chemicals etc as is the grain fed to them.
Laying eggs. I am sure most people believe a hen lays an egg every day but did you know that the temperature can affect egg production? Extreme cold and hot weather can cause hens to stop laying eggs. They lay best between 11 to 26 degrees. They also need 12 – 16 hours of light to continue laying. I suppose this is why you see artificial lights in many barns and sheds. Less daylight is a signal for the bird to moult and shed their old feather for new ones to come. This is natures way of telling the bird to gather energy and resources to survive to cold months ahead.
We at the Mill purchase our eggs from a local source – Aunty Rinn’s Eggs who are free-range egg producers.