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Do you buy free range eggs?

Free range, barn eggs, organic… there is a baffling range of eggs on the supermarket shelves, but what’s best for the hens? 

Once upon a time, eggs were the simplest of kitchen staples, but not anymore. Welfare campaigns have improved the dismal life of battery hens and in turn led to wider consumer choice. But now an extensive range of eggs, from value brands through to organic and nutritionally enriched varieties, vie for space on supermarket shelves. But which are the highest-welfare eggs?

Cramped battery cages were banned across the EU in 2012, but animal welfare experts agree that new and so-called improved “enriched” cages are not a great deal better. The birds have slightly more room to move than in conventional battery cages – 13 to 14 hens per square metre and a few furnishings – but their ability to behave naturally remains severely restricted.

Ultimately, the question of which eggs to buy depends on your personal ethical priorities and, of course, your budget.

Checking the eggs before you buy them is important. All eggs sold in the UK must be stamped with the method of production: 0=organic, 1= free-range, 2=barn, 3=caged and state this on the carton. The British Lion symbol also tells you that the eggs are British-laid and have been vaccinated against salmonella. Price is a good indicator of how the hens that laid the eggs were raised. If you buy your eggs from the supermarket, the cheapest are likely to be from hens kept in cages, while the most expensive organic brands are potentially the highest-welfare.

What are your views?  Do you attach a lot of importance to the wellbeing of the animal when choosing your eggs? How do you make your decision when selecting your eggs?

Do you buy free range eggs?

352 people have already voted, what's your opinion? Yes No

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[deleted]
9th Jul 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Farm boy
9th Jul 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
2 hens don’t make much noise and give plenty of eggs if u got room
Farm boy
8th Jul 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
I eat my own hen eggs
Gilldee
22nd Jun 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
I buy mine from the local farm they still have chicken poo on them and quite a lot of them are double yolkers from The Young bullets I love my Farm eggs that are free range and you can see the chickens and the yolks are as bright as a daffodil
Gilldee
22nd Jun 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
Pullets not bullets
Pwilly
5th May 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
I buy mine from the farm and more than likely they are from the hens I see running around the farm.
Topsie
15th Apr 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
I always buy free range eggs. The chickens need to be free to peck the grass. I saw a Battery Hen Farm once- those poor hens in small cages. It was heart breaking. They are now showing pictures on tv of hens very crowded in a barn. An improvement but the hens do not have much freedom and no fresh air.
Toe1
5th Apr 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
We get most of our eggs from the chickens we keep. They are free to roam the garden from when we let them out each morning and to when they decide to go to bed. The free range eggs in the shops are quite expensive.
Denhus
4th Apr 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
I always try to buy organic free range eggs
REG4AUDREY
30th Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
Always buy free range eggs. Well worth paying a little extra.
Onecott
25th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
I am now starting to take more interest in egg laying & hen care, & have adjusted my buying habits accordingly. It is perhaps not such an option if one is on a tight budget.
bebmeister
25th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
I will only ever buy free range eggs, usually from people who keep hens and they are free to roam but locked up at night, they taste better and have a lovely yellow/orange yolk. Some ‘free range’ eggs you buy from supermarkets are bloody awful
Fender77
23rd Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Worth any extra cost as the welfare of the chickens is much better
Jjmc
23rd Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
DaveJ06
23rd Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
Free range are super, but does have it's down side in that there can be problems with fox and mink (recently lost 2 dozen chooks to mink, photo confirms this.) thus the slightly higher prices.
Gilldee
22nd Jun 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
Try and get somebody to kill the mink it's classed as vermin
Carol27
23rd Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
Although I buy free range eggs, I think we have to be aware that they are more expensive and many people may not be able to make that choice.
Onajourney5
23rd Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
There is no need for them to be more expensive. That's the change we have to push for. Free range is cheaper.
Onajourney5
23rd Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
A law should be passed by the government that establishes strict hen (all kept animals) keeping rules.
Anybody producing eggs by means of poor living and carrying conditions should NOT be given a licence to sell to the retail trade. Retail trade should not be permitted to buy animal products that have been kept in unworthy conditions.
When people were kept as slaves to produce work for their owners it was considered normal. It took a long time to eliminate slavery as the norm and the slave to be considered a living breathing being with feelings.
Surely if enough people fought for more rights for animals by refusing to buy tortured animals produce we can have a chance of eating our meat and sub products with the knowledge that the captive creature was treated well and did not suffer humility and pain during its short life.
I realise that a lot of people may not be able to afford the higher priced free range eggs/meats but the prices should not be higher, it is cheaper to keep free range hens in a field or open barn to come any go happily producing more eggs naturally.
Whatever type of conscience you may have, it is NEVER right to be cruel to living beings for profit, that really is the bottom line. The last of the slaves......vote not to buy into the cruel world of greedy, profit driven low life producers and buy products that clearly show how and where the product was raised and kept.
If in doubt for heavens sake go without, the retailer will soon get the message!
baking.grandma
23rd Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
Always buy free range eggs from local market
BillPark
23rd Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
StanL
21st Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
I only buy free range eggs
SilverBlue
21st Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
I only buy organic eggs
AudreyC5
21st Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
I only buy free range eggs as the hens welfare is important to me.
BarbaraAnn
21st Mar 2018
3
Thanks for voting!
I only buy free range but as I live alone wish we could buy them in smaller quantities as I never know how long they are fresh for
Chris12A
22nd Mar 2018
3
Thanks for voting!
Place the egg in a bowl of water. If the egg lays on its side at the bottom, it is still quite fresh. If the egg stands upright on the bottom, it is still fine to eat, but should be eaten very soon, or hard-boiled. If the egg floats to the top, it's past its prime, and not good for eating
Lionel
22nd Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Excellent advice. Well tried and tested.
Gilldee
22nd Jun 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
Think back to the war that used to keep eggs for months and what would better standards that we keep them now I'm quite sure half a dozen eggs will keep for a month
Delia64
21st Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
We always buy free range....trying to get them as local as possible
KathleenM9
21st Mar 2018
5
Thanks for voting!
I have been lucky enough to have my own hens for over 40 years. The hens' have a large Hen House and roam my field during the day.11,hens 1 Rooster on 1 acre. They eat my food scraps and have fresh food and water every day. Eggs taste lovely and if the hens don't lay, I don't eat eggs. The sight of those pale yolks from store bought eggs puts me off. I feel sorry for people who don't have a choice, and for the hens kept in crowded conditions.
LesleyC7
21st Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
As a business, we but free range and are lucky to have a farm within 4 miles, so we buy theirs. We also do look for a good price, currently £1.50 per dozen. Our customers do say they taste very good!
caroleannetroops
21st Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
I only buy organic eggs
julieanna
21st Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Would not buy anything else
Bald123
20th Mar 2018
3
Thanks for voting!
Love eggs and love Free Range ones-much better taste. Used to enjoy our neighbours until they stopped having hens
jeanmark
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
I no longer buy eggs because my husband isn't able to eat them at the moment. Luckily, a close neighbour in my village keep hens and will give me a couple if I want any.

Fortunately one of neighbours even closer has a number of dogs, including a Jack Russell, he deals with any rat problems we have!
Margaret Hart
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
Being able to pay extra for fresh farm food as suggested by one member is very dependent on the money coming in and some have to go to food places to get allowances of free food. Many others coul d not afford to pay extra.
Margaret Hart
20th Mar 2018
4
Thanks for voting!
Yes I do buy free range eggs preferably from farms with outside hens plus I am lucky to,have a son with hens who regularly gives me some but not all the time as we do not live very close to each other. Real free range fed naturally have a very different taste from shop bought eggs.
Yodama
20th Mar 2018
6
Thanks for voting!
With the population increasing exponentially and as the demand for eggs grows apace, how do the farmers keep up with the demand?
Are we quite sure the eggs marked "free range" are indeed "free range?"
Battery farmed chickens seemed to be the answer....but...
To see the utter cruelty of the caged hens makes one want to stop eating eggs altogether.

Cruelty lies at the door of the company producing the eggs, they should be stringently monitored and the culprits severely punished.
We have a very long way to go for humanity to become humane in all things.
I am lucky to be living in farmland and have fresh eggs from local free running chickens.
Lionel
20th Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Yodama, I've explained the present definition of free range in a reply to Wilf below.

I think you may know I don't countenance animal cruelty in any shape or form. Working with livestock, I may say they thrive and make good prices at market if they've been well looked after. Besides which, my job, sometimes handling a ton of beef on the hoof, is only possible because from a calf I forged a trusting relationship with that animal. I've never needed to use a rod attached to the bull's nose ring. 'Come on, ole boy,' and the beast would follow. As soon as I could I made sure I was behind him! Horns hurt!

I didn't work in poultry but I do know how it functions. Again, overt cruelty to hens results in far fewer eggs. In the case of table birds, if one is cruel to them then they don't put on weight, the while scoffing expensive food.

I'll say again, in the farming of bigger beasts there is very little cruelty - it just doesn't pay! But poultry ... yes of course, if only in the housing systems employed.

I can't speak about poultry farming but when farming pigs 30 years ago in N. Yorkshire, we had a vet inspection every 3 months. And it was a thorough inspection. The vet, sometimes James Herriot or his son Jimmy, would only sign us off if we had a totally clean bill of health. The slightest flaw in our animal management and our certificate was withheld.

In England animal cruelty laws are limp wristed. Added to which the ever power National Farmer's Union will get their legals on the case and win.
Yodama
23rd Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Nice explanation Lionel. The problem I have is with the "feed" that they give battery chickens. Whether is is pellets or mash, if the poor chickens have to wallow in their damp conditions, dangerous Mycotoxin poisonous fungal growth is present.

The feed is laced with additives such vitamins and Soya bean oil...Monsanto's chemical Frankenstein mix.
Antibiotics and treatments to keep chickens healthy are for me a bone of contention.

Limp wristed indeed and a poorly informed population to boot.
I like the idea of your chickens just scratching around for worms.
Lionel
26th Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Yodama, taking any animal out of it's native habitat into one artificial to that species is fraught with problems.

Once out of their native habitat they must be fed but seldom is it their preferred food. Dairy cattle are fed on a silage regime (high cellulose plants such as maize and grass, fermented with sulphuric acid and compressed). After compression a foul smelling viscous dark liquid seeps out from the silage pile. I've know it rots wellies in a couple of days! But we feed this to cattle! Oh, and we eat the beef or drink their milk.

Pigs are fed barley meal medicated with antibiotics; they're in the mix to help combat diseases unknown in wild pigs but prevalent and disastrous in captive pigs. Of course, both livestock and handlers then build up antibiotic resistance. This resistance is worse for people who work in closed houses with pigs, we breathing the dust also build up an antibiotic resistance. It is present in me. Garlic sorts out most of my infections at the moment but the future ...?

In 1981 I was farming pigs in Suffolk. About three miles away a very modern pig unit had an outbreak of Aujeski's Disease - it devastates a pig herd. Aujeski's breaks out somewhere in the UK about once every 100 years. The entire area for miles around was locked down by the Min of Ag and Fish. That sort of lockdown is something to behold - we couldn't even leave the farm to buy food! Wicker laundry baskets of food were hurled over a farm fence from the main road. We shared what was there. A little like rationing.

A vet monitored our herd twice a day. Mercifully, we remained clear. But about 10,000 pigs were slaughtered locally. One of those vets was a pal. I asked him what the heck had brought this about? 'The way we feed livestock, nothing else.'

Surely, the underlying problem, as Wilf has pointed out, is an exploding population. Brexit is putting pressure on our farmers to deliver more, to use set aside land to the full. To break EU rules and just produce food of some kind. Never mind the quality or nutritional value. Livestock is put under pressure, as are farmers and farm workers.

The outcome is very poor quality food, laden with antibiotics, sold to the population as 'healthy food.' End result? A sick population.

I could write more about animal diseases on farms; diseases which are not in evidence in wild boar, or cattle left to roam without intervention. But for now I'll shut up.
viking
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
Living in the country, I pass by these very long sheds with the large aireator on the roof, and know what is inside unfortunately. Surely by definition it can only be free range or caged, the in between is just still caged ??
Wilf
20th Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
I totally agree and I go past some of these sheds. They remind me of prisons of the worst sort.
MrsPat
20th Mar 2018
3
Thanks for voting!
We dont have much money so I always buy the cheapest eggs. I do feel sorry for hens and other animals. They should be able to have decent lives-obviously.
Wilf
20th Mar 2018
5
Thanks for voting!
We need to get back to basics in farming and our food and I am sure the vast majority of Brits would rather pay a bit more and so the animals on our farms had more freedom and were not so intensivly reared. I read about caged hens in the papers last week and it seems incredibly cruel-12 to a square meter inside all their lives and pecking at each other. i would ahppily eat less eggs for twice the price if I knew the chickens had a happy life pecking about in the open. I will be interested in lionels views on here as he has been in farming his whole life and knows more than most on the subject-Lionel?
Lionel
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
Hello Wilf. As I've indicated a few times in the past, not all is what it seems in farming.

Although I was not in poultry to any extent the way it works is familiar to me. Supermarkets are the biggest retailers of eggs. They negotiate contracts up to 5 years ahead, with only minimal increases in wholesale costs allowed. In poultry and eggs the margins are tight.

Tesco, some years ago, leaned heavily on I think Edwina Curry to change the definition of free range hens. Hitherto hens designated free range needed to be housed, but free to run on grassland at will. That made their eggs very expensive because a flock of chickens will lay waste several acres of grassland in a few days and the farmer needed a lot of valuable land to keep them going.

The definition was changed to read, if they're not caged then they must be free range. So almost all so called free range eggs sold in supermarkets are from hens kept on deep litter - a dense bed of straw in a warehouse sized building, temperature controlled and humidity regulated. To be profitable a farm needs several such buildings.

The hens are culled at about two years old and sold for chicken pies! But this is supermarket farming, minimum costs and maximum profits. To supermarkets animal welfare is a costly add-on. They're only interested if it sells more product.

Yes, there are producers running genuinely free range but they generally sell into a niche market such as 'organic,' or 'health food.' Locally, genuine free range eggs sell for between £4 -5 a dozen large.

You won't be surprised I run my own hens and have done for the greater part of my life. We had 30 here for several years and sold the very many excess eggs. A Blackrock hen will produce six eggs a week throughout the year. Nowadays we've scaled down to six. They're in their run during Spring and Summer and once the summer crops are lifted winter crops are fenced off and they're let loose for 5 months. If they get out of the garden I send 3 Collies to round them up. Never fails.

Yet it must be said of hens, they're the very best garden pest killers. They forage all day and only go back to the hen hut to lay an egg or sleep. While they're loose on the garden I don't feed them, don't need to do that.
Wilf
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
Thanks Lionel a brilliant explanation and I knew you would know all about this. What I think we are saying is if 80,000 hens live in each of the caged shelters that currently provide most eggs in supermarkets we would literally need thousands of acres to house them all and foxs would be prolific! Mind you the hens would have a much nice life! & maybe the eggs would be much better for us humans as well?
Lionel
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
Yes, exactly, Wilf. We just don't have the land freely available for truly free ranged hens. Even my own are in their run 7 months a year. They devastate the land.

When this country had older style mixed farms, no more than maybe 200 acres, rearing a few cattle, a house cow or two, sheep, pigs, geese and hens those farms were almost self sufficient. Crop rotation was a 5 year cycle and muck was money! There was little if any need for expensive artificial fertiliser produced from oil. They produced their own fertility. The produce from these farms could be sold more cheaply because it was produced more cheaply. Huge farm subsidies didn't exist.

Each animal type and plant was an integral part of the farm's eco-cycle; something of each animal was marketable to locals. But the War changed that.

Suddenly, the focus of agriculture became towns and cities. It was a government sponsored move. Agriculture was becoming intensive and still is, but more so. Food quality dropped in favour of quantity. Even gardeners in the Dig for Victory campaign were told to use Growmore, the same 3 part artificial fertiliser that was available to farmers.

We've moved to a massively intensive form of agriculture and I can't say I approve. That 200 acre farm cited above was at least 5 times more productive, and thence more profitable, as the agri-businessmen may achieve today.

We've prioritised quantity over quality. That's a mistake. We always need to eat more poor quality food. A case in point: my nearly son-in-law, yes, still nearly, asked for burgers and the trimmings when dining here. Butcher's burgers, eggs from our hens, our potatoes and onions. Nothing unusual. But, he asked for 3 burgers and filled his steak plate with the rest. Just past one burger he gave in. Stuffed! Dogs fed well that night!

On the point of eggs, if we eat a good wholesome diet of naturally produced food, grown or reared on well nourished land, we don't need that many eggs in our diet. Thus, no need for battery hens.
Wilf
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
Very true Lionel the moot point here being quality rather than quantity. It would do the population well in that respect and probbaly stop a lot of obesity as well. I think in the future we will come full circle. Populations will keep growing but places like Japan with 300,000 people less per annum currently point to a world in say 200 years that may be back to 5 billion ...or less and a UK of say 30 million-much like the 19th century. Highly scientific farming yet much more natural and of course by that time we will be far more aware of what benefits food has on the human body (and all the rubbish will be kept out of diets). Plus most of all far more caring towards animals which will be good for us all. Utopia? -Maybe but "maybe the shape of things to come"!
Lionel
20th Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Yes Wilf, exactly, quantity over quality. I have demonstrated so many times with food from my garden that my family cannot, just cannot eat the quantity they would expect at home. But what they consume here more than fills bellies.

Given I'm small, my wife says petite - how lovely - my daily food intake is very little, yet I work like a dog for 7 months a year in the garden. In 2001 I had a burger in Nitre in Slovakia, birth place of that Schindlers List chap. It was satisfying, value for money and not at all like the next one a few years later at McD's which sent my pulse sky high and blood pressure to the point I dare not drive.

Burgeoning populations are a problem but I maintain the belief there is yet sufficient food available if the super powers would cease playing food politics. But even the near future is problematic. Already we are reading reports of seemingly long dead plagues reviving and attacking populations. The Black Death, which devastated Europe in I think the 13th C is on the march, as is small pox, Typhus and Diphtheria. It seems to me there may be a population cull waiting in the wings.

Being utterly self centred here, we have such a transitory population any one or more of those diseases could strike here in the UK.

Utopia? Well, Wilf, every attempt at a Utopia so far has failed and for very simple reasons. I have no hope the next, or is that current, attempt will succeed.
Wilf
21st Mar 2018
0
Thanks for voting!
We can always hope for utopia Lionel it keeps the human race focused!
Lionel
25th Mar 2018
1
Thanks for voting!
Wilf, just a bye the bye.

I was in our butcher's on Friday. They had Sutton Hoo raised chickens (where the Viking Treasure was unearthed in the 30's and now on display in the British Museum). That bird had been raised on grass land, entirely free range.

What struck me was the price. A 1.25kg bird, sufficient for a meal for two people, was priced at £11.79!

We ventured into Morrison's for Oxo's etc., and I found a 1.5kg bird - doubtless raised in a cage, for £3.99!

Now, I'm not comparing quality and price as such. But over £12 for a complete home cooked meal for two is a little steep, don't you think? Or am I being tight again?

My family doesn't exercise the discernment we do about food. If it tastes good eat it! I've ploughed better looking stuff into the soil! They do not appreciate the difference between a cheap chicken and a well raised premium bird. But my wife and I do.

In the end I bought a chicken raised on deep litter for £4.99. It's in the oven now.

But, I have another birthday in a couple of weeks. Then, after a lovely day out with the dogs we will have a Sutton Hoo bird. Hang the cost, I didn't ever expect to live this long!!
kentrix39
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
There is absolutely no need to cage hens in this day and age. The welfare of the birds ensures that the producer has a good deep yellow yoked egg that tastes supreme to any others.
Wilf
20th Mar 2018
2
Thanks for voting!
I agree its very cruel

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