Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Egg Classifications

I brought some of the girls eggs to friends the other night and they commented on my egg label.

And it started a discussion about the different labels on egg cartons and what exactly they mean:
  - Organic
  - Cage Free
  - Pastured Eggs / Free Range

Organic means that the chickens are fed an organic diet, must have access to the outdoors where they can spend time in the sun.  They must never spend time in cages.  And are never given antibiotics and never forced to molt.

I'm not sure how you would force a chicken to molt and honestly, I don't want to know.  The more I research chickens, the more I learn about the horrible things commercial chicken farmers do to chickens including leaving the lights on all day and night to force them to lay more eggs, de-beaking - a process where the ends of their beaks are removed which helps eliminate pecking, and packing them into cages so tight, they can't stretch their wings or rest their feet.

Cage Free means that the hens are not kept in cages.  Hens are allowed to freely walk around and will typically lay in nest boxes.  But this description can be very deceptive.  Because many cage free set ups look like this:

Cage Free Chickens - Not exactly what you think of when you think cage free.
Cage Free doesn't mean the hens ever see the day of light.  Doesn't require that they get time to scratch in the dirt.  And as you can see, it could take some time to head over to the nest boxes only to find your favorite one occupied with a queue.  Many of these hens will just lay their eggs on the floor.

Pasture or Free Range Eggs are more along the lines of what we have going on for our Spice Girls.  They are never confined to a cage.  They have free access to be inside their hen house or outside as they choose.  They can freely eat bugs, greens and other tasty treats they unearth with their feet.  Or simply spend time digging up my bulbs if that's what they feel like doing.

Ginger Bug eating my Italian Parsley.

So I've updated my labels with Organic, Free Range, Fresh Eggs to better reflect the conditions our hens live in.  I like the term Pasture Eggs but I'm afraid people are going to think my eggs are pasteurized.  And Free Range really does describe my girls living arrangements well.

And if you detect a tinge of bitterness towards the damage my girls are doing to my garden, you are spot on.  We're still trying to strike a balance.  Me, I want my bulbs to stay planted in the ground, my patio to remain a poop-free zone and for them to leave me a few herbs to use when I cook.  The girls,  like to dig up my bulbs for sport, poop where ever and when ever they get the urge and when they discover something tasty like parsley, eat it like the world could end at any moment.  Sigh...

1 comment:

  1. So if they're allowed to dig up and eat "bugs, greens and other tasty treats they unearth" what happens if those things (or the treats you give them) aren't organic? Organic is so confusing!!