The demand for free-range eggs in general has increased of the past few years. In fact, around half of the eggs sold in supermarkets are now free-range. This is positive as it suggests people are more aware of the plight of our feathered friends, but it’s not quite enough to simple rely on the free-range label. Although free range is better than caged it does not guarantee the standard of welfare for hens like organic eggs do.
Free-range standards permit the routine use of antibiotics, which undermines the drugs ability to help treat infections and diseases, beak trimming, which prevents the birds expressing natural behaviours like foraging and pecking at insects and grass and it also permits the use of GM feed. They also allow larger flock sizes ( which could be up to 16,000 hens or more ) and the indoor stocking density is nine birds per square meter.
The Soil Association states that: ‘Organic chickens are raised to organic standards, which not only means free-range but a whole lot more. Organic standards cover not only the animals housing and the amount of space they have, but also the way they are treated, what they are fed and how they are transported and eventually slaughtered. They are not allowed to be fed on GM feed.’
On top of this Organic Chickens are not permitted to have their beaks trimmed and they must be kept indoors at a maximum density of 6 chickens per square meter. The flock size limits are much lower with a maximum allowance of 2000 hens. Organic chickens will only be given antibiotics when they need it as opposed to being given it routinely to prevent illness. And because they are kept in lower densities than other farmed chickens they actually need antibiotics far less frequently anyway.
It takes a lot of effort and resource to maintain the high organic standards mentioned above but by understanding this and paying a little more, anyone who buys Organic eggs are allowing people like Cultivate Egg suppliers FAI farms to continue to do a fantastic job caring for their birds and providing us with great tasting eggs.