Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch.

For those of you not in the know, today March 19th, is National Poultry Day. Somehow this didn’t make front page news… So with this opportunity, it seems wise to talk about the wonderful ingredient that is the egg. Making our cake sponges light, our vanilla custards yellow and our omelettes, well…omelettes; they are also one of the most nutritional foods on the planet.

The average egg contains; Vitamins A, B5, B12, B2, Folate, Phosphorus and Selenium; a huge 6 grams of protein; and 5 grams of heart healthy fats. As we all know, they’re packed with Omega-3, increasing your good cholesterol, whilst breaking down the bad cholesterol particles. And if that’s not enough, they are also a great source of essential amino acids. Who knew there was so much goodness in the topping to your Avo on Toast?

When purchasing your eggs recently, you may have noticed a small little sticker declaring that free range eggs have temporarily been laid by chickens kept in barns for their welfare. This has been due to an outbreak of avian flu, resulting in farmers being ordered to shelter their chickens on December 6th to reduce the spreading and protect the UK. However if this declaration happened in December, why did we only see the result on February 28th? And why are we still seeing it 3 weeks later?

EU ruling states that if a hen has been houses for more than 12 weeks, itself and the eggs it produces can not be sold as free range. But with so many different egg labels, whats the difference between them?

Organic Free Range Eggs (0) – The flock size will not exceed 6 hens per square meter. They have access to organic pastures with trees and shelter, and are fed an organic diet. Well known brands include The Happy Egg co. A maximum colony size of 3,000.

Free Range Eggs (1)- No more than 9 hens per square meter. The birds have continuous (daytime) access to open air runs covered in vegetation. They are provided food and water (however there aren’t currently tight laws preventing farmers using genetically modified food). A maximum colony size of 4,000.

Barn Eggs (2) – The hens live in a large barn, the can move freely, but cannot venture outdoors. The birds are permitted a 15cm perch and provided food and water. A maximum colony size of 6,000.

Colony Caged Eggs (3)- The hen spends her whole life in a metal cage about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, in a unit containing a ‘colony’ of caged chickens. One single hen house colony may contain tens of thousands of chickens in cages. They will never see outdoors or daylight in their lifetime.

It’s becoming more and more common for people to keep chickens as home pets, provided they have the garden space, which gives these individuals the most organic eggs you can get. [If anyone reading this lives near where I grew up in Worcestershire, then I recommend you try Lu Collins’ exotic chicken eggs sold in Kington, so delicious!] However, those without the luxury of owning your own chickens, then I encourage to try and source your eggs locally or even just to read the supermarket labels before you buy. Making a more knowledgeable choice supports local farmers and animal welfare; makes the hens a little happier; and hopefully makes your Sunday morning brunch; a little tastier.

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