Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Free Range Eggs are not What They're Cracked Up to Be

Almost a quarter of all eggs sold now are laid by free-range hens — even though they cost up to four times as much as cage eggs and their claims to superior taste and nutritional benefits are debatable.

Consumers are paying up to $9.50 a dozen for free-range eggs — about $6 more than the retail price of a dozen cage eggs, according to the Australian Egg Corporation. Despite the cost, consumption has steadily risen over the past decade and now 22pc — or nearly 45 million dozen — of all egg sales are free range. The corporation — which represents all egg producers — said some people opted for free-range eggs because of animal welfare concerns, but customer feedback showed most were prepared to pay extra for the eggs because they believed they were more nutritious, better for health and better tasting.

However, corporation spokeswoman Jacqueline Baptista said research had shown free-range eggs were no different from those laid by caged hens. "Our extensive research has shown there is no significant difference in nutrition or taste between both types of eggs," she said. "Consumer feedback is that some people buy them for the welfare aspect of hens but we believe that it is animal husbandry practice that determines welfare, rather than the actual production methods farmers use for their eggs."

Ms Baptista said caged hens often had better disease controls and protection from predators.

But the RSPCA argues that battery hens suffer from confinement in cages which do not allow them space to exercise or to carry out behaviours such as wing flapping, dust bathing and foraging.

Free-range farmers say consumers believe it is worth paying more to know the eggs have come from "contented hens that range freely during daylight hours over natural sunny pastures" and return to sheds at night for roosting and laying.

But the research is now in.......there is no difference in quality. Why pay more, especially when the middle man or retailer is really the one that profits, not the farmers.

[partially sourced from Australian Egg Corporation media release]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I reckon chooks have a job to do and they should sit there and get on with it; not run around the yard, wearing themselves out and then producing inferior eggs. RH