In the UK we consume 12 billion eggs a year, and only 2% of these are organic. What is the difference between free range and organic?
When I started to work at the farm I noticed that there were some chickens who looked like they were bullied by the other chickens. They are bald in areas and looked skinny and generally quite strange compared to the healthy looking chickens. I found out that these were rescued from battery farms.
There is a very clear visible difference between the happy healthy chickens and the battery farm chickens and it’s really sad to see that difference. In the farm’s blog they describe how the battery chickens didn’t go outside for 2 weeks on their own without encouragement, showing a clear psychological impact from being at a battery farm. You can read about the chicken’s at the farm on the farms blog post.
So why do the organic chickens look so different from battery farm chickens, and how do free range chickens compare?
- According to the soil association typically intensively reared meat live 30,000 in a shed. This is proven true from an article about an egg farm where they have 20,000 chickens in a shed. In comparison the soil association regulation allows 2000 laying hens or 1000 reared meat.
- In an interview with an egg farmer in Wirrebee South, Australia, it is explained that beaks are trimmed to prevent cannibalism. A ‘mutilation that can be painful and also prevents the hens from expressing their natural behaviour by foraging is severely restricted.’
- Male chicks are incinerated or thrown into bin bags- in both methods they are alive before being ground alive or suffocated.
- Free range sheds can contain up to nine birds per square metre – that’s like 14 adults living in a one-room flat. Some multi-tier sheds (still “free range”) contain 16,000 hens. So while these poor birds can theoretically go outdoors, they can also be too crammed in and too traumatised to find the few exit holes.
- Free range chickens have far less space outdoors at 4 square meters per chicken compared to 10 square meters at organic farms.
The egg farmer from Wirrebee South argues that it would be impossible to cater to the demand which will double by 2050, with organic farming- ‘farmers had moved to caged eggs in the 60s because of consumer demand for a cheaper, cleaner product.’
Like the exploitation in the garment industry, consumers can be seen as the force driving it. By creating a demand we are pushing for cheaper and faster products.
If you eat eggs and you want to be a conscious consumer you can look for the soil association logo when buying your eggs. The farm I work at is certified by the soil association and I can see how they live, with room to roam and to follow their natural behaviours. Let’s change that 2% to 100%. We are the change we want to see.
This weeks favourites are from Arthouse Meath.
‘ARTHOUSE Meath presents the skills and talents of men and women living with complex epilepsy, learning and physical difficulties. With high quality artwork and products ARTHOUSE Meath aims to create a platform of positive change in attitude towards people who are often marginalised. 100% of sales revenue goes towards sustaining the enterprise, helping it to grow and evolve.’
I got my information from the following sources: