Updated: May 1
What is the difference between free run, range? Organic? Omega?
For a while now I've skipped the grocery store eggs- here's why!
What I look for in an egg: chickens have had full access to being outside.
Have you thought about those cheap, no-name eggs you are tempted to reach for from the shelf?
First, let's go through some definitions..
Free run = chickens run free- within a barn. Chickens may have access to outside for an allotted time each day. Living spaces are confined and chickens spend most of their time indoors. They are given a nesting box to lay eggs.
Free range = in theory, this definition means chickens are outside, can roam free and are given a coop for the harsh weather. They may or may not be given a nesting box.
Most farm chickens are true free range, making egg harvest like an Easter egg hunt. My butcher jokes about how they have to go find eggs from trees and bushes!
The reason I said "in theory" ..
The degree to which eggs can be labelled "free range" depends on the farmer- since there is no legal definition. This is why I would rather find a farmer and ask them questions, versus rely on a package label at a grocery store. Here is an article that was in the Globe and Mail, called "The dark side of free-range chickens".
Conventional / caged = chickens remain in a nesting box their entire life. They have no access to outside or to even stretch their legs. Eggs are hatched on top of a funnel that connects to a conveyor belt. This is the cheapest way to produce eggs for market, with no regard for animal life or nutrition value.
Did you know?
Most farmer's sell their eggs for really cheap! You just have to ask around and find someone who is looking to offload their eggs!
Those cheap, no-name eggs are likely nutrient-deficient and have some seriously bad karma behind them...
Why are living conditions so important? More things to think about?
My favourite egg comes from a legit farm. I say "legit farm" because when you see the chicken advertisements in the subway tunnel, they say "Canadian Farmer's", show a smiling guy in plaid holding some eggs, but skip the picture of the barn full of thousands of chickens starving for sunlight..
Like us, chickens are animals, and live happiest in the great outdoors! This ensures they live a healthy life, have access to vitamin D, fresh air and ample exercise. Roaming outside also gives chickens access to their natural diet of insects, grass, and whatever else they like to peck at.
Even free range chickens on a farm are given a supplementary diet. Optimally we hope for a diet that is GMO & pesticide-free. Plus foods they would naturally eat, like sprouted grains and seeds.
The use of antibiotics
Did you know there are more antibiotics used as precautionary measure in animal agriculture, versus human medical use?????
Animals raised in confined spaces are at high risk for contracting infection if something blows through the barn. Precautionary use of antibiotics is how they prevent sickness from starting. On all your animal foods, look for the label: "Raised without the use of antibiotics"!
Use of hormones
The use of growth hormone is illegal in Canada (not in the U.S), however the use of other hormones to manipulate fertility cycles and increase laying speed is not. Look for the label: "Raised without the use of hormones".
Conventionally grown chickens are fed a flax-rich diet to increase the content of omega 3 fatty acids in their eggs. Otherwise, their eggs would be low in omega fats, and little to no omega 3, due to a diet high in corn and soy.
Free range chickens / chickens that run wild outside, will naturally produce eggs with a balance of all the omega fatty acids, including omega 3, due to their freedom in eating insects and living plants outside.
Have you wondered why some chickens lay multi-coloured eggs?
Over the years, and through the evolution of conventional agriculture, chickens like many other crops, have been bred to produce bigger and faster. They have bred out the animals that are fussy and lay different coloured eggs. Why? The goal of conventional agriculture is a uniform product that is simple and quick to produce.
Ask your farmer if they use a heirloom breed.. I know mine does!