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Are Free Range Organic Eggs Worth the Money?

Note:  ‘Are Freerange Organic Eggs Worth the Money?’ – This is a transcription of the video.

Brad:
Hey guys! Welcome to Primal Health, It’s Brad here. Today I am at Clarendon Farms in Pitt Town, west of Sydney about 90 minutes, with Ian Littleton who is the owner here. We thought we’d come down and let him help explain to us what is the difference between Free Range, Free Roaming, Organic and Certified Organic Eggs. What the difference is and basically what makes his business unique from other farms.

So, Ian can you tell us the difference first up between those different certifications and what they actually mean?

Ian [01:09]:
The term ‘Free Range’ can cover quite intense operations. So at the moment there is no real limit on the stocking rate that the birds are allowed to roam on in the range area. Also there is currently a proposal on by the Australian Egg Corporation to actually have a very heavy stocking rate of around 20,000 birds per hectare (2.5 acres), which is way above what we do here, and still described as free range. The other things are with those systems often the birds are locked in the cages until about midday in the belief that they have to do that so the birds will lay in the nest boxes in the shed. Also, they tend to raise the birds in ‘pullet rearing’ systems which are designed not only for free range but also for cage systems and barns systems where such young birds are confined in houses up until the point of lay. So that’s something else that true free range farmers find abhorrent, because it means that when the birds are let out during the laying period, they’re just not used to the idea of going outdoors.

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Brad [2:15]:
What is free roaming?

Ian:
Well, the free roaming is another definition of the free range. There are the people who are concerned about the corruption or the over-intensification of the current description of free range, and so they have been using the terms open range, free range and pasture-raised birds as a way of trying to differentiate their system away from the idea of intensive free range.

Brad:
What is the difference between Organic Vs Certified Organic?

Ian:
There shouldn’t be any difference, if someone is calling their product organic, it should be certified. This is one area where legislation applies. To describe a product organic, it should have gone through a certification process. So it is important when you are looking at the product that is described as Organic to check for the certification logo displayed on the product and also certification number of the farm as well.

Brad [3:20]:
You are certified by the A.C.O here in Australia. There are lots of certifying agencies in the USA, how many are here in Australia?

Ian:
…A.C.O. for short. It is a privately run body and there are actually seven in Australia. A.C.O. is the one of two major ones and the vast majority of the organic farms in Australia are certified by Australian Certified Organic or N.A.A.S.A. But also in Australia, the actual performance of those certifying bodies is monitored by the Federal Department of Primary Industries as we do export the organic products and this is important for the Australian government that the produce are genuinely meeting requirements.

Brad [4:02]:
Why do you feel the free range organic system you use here, produce superior eggs?

Ian:
We do actually get complimented a lot on our eggs by our consumers. I’ll have to be honest, one of the big things that sets our eggs apart, is the fact that we do our own distribution. We actually get out our eggs into the marketplace in a very fresh condition. In fact, we are delivering eggs into the Sydney market every day. So basically, the eggs are picked up in the morning, graded and sometimes they can be in Sydney in the afternoon. This is one of the advantages of the small farms like this where we can do that. We don’t have farms way out in Queensland or Western New South Wales, shipping eggs into a central distribution centre then going off to another warehouse. So, that’s one of things about what we do. The other thing is the way our birds are managed, we do get a lower production level from our birds, they are not pushed as hard as what birds in the cage system or barn system may be. We don’t use artificial lighting, so in a sense you could say that the nutrients the birds take up are spread over a a smaller number of eggs. So this has an impact on the quality of the eggs as well.

Brad [5:14]:
What are the living conditions like for the chooks?

Are Free Range Organic Eggs Worth the Extra Money?

Here’s one of Ian’s sheds on wheels that allows them to replenish the pasture more effectively.

Ian:
We use portable houses and these houses here are mounted on wheels. We actually move the houses over the pasture area. So when the pasture gets knocked back like you can see here, then we simply move the houses up the pasture and then it rejuvenates the area that’s left behind. The houses are just roosting, nesting houses. They provide ample shade, nest boxes for the birds during the day and a roosting area for the birds at night. The birds are not confined in these houses, at any time, they can just come and go.

Brad:
They can sleep out here if they want to?

Ian:
Yes, they can but the bird’s natural tendency is to actually roost at night and get up off the ground. We can do this because we protect them against the predators. We have the entire range area surrounded by quite an elaborate electric fencing system and we have Flock Guardian Dogs that roam around inside the area. Now the dogs, the way that they work, they simply just send a message out to predators saying don’t come in! So there’s a whole lot less incentive for a fox to come through the fence. This means the birds just do whatever they like.

Brad [6:20]:
Foxes seems to be the number one predator for chooks?

Ian:
Yes, particularly in this area here. We are here on the urban fringe which means that we have very high fox population around here. We have a resident fox population here of around 8 foxes per hectare which is actually quite high.

Brad [6:40]:
What does a happy chook eat here?

Ian [7:04]:
The Cris Valgang certification – we can only feed them food which is also Organically Certified. So we buy grains and protein meals which is blended into feed mix…. They do also get some nutrition from the pasture but not very much from the pasture the way it is at the moment because it’s so dry.

Brad:
Is wheat the grain of choice for the chooks?

Ian:
Yes, it is with Certified Organic Farms but with most Poultry farms as well.

[Brad Note: it’s very rare that you will find chickens not fed grains in a commercial setting.]

Brad:
Also, because the pasture isn’t actually sprayed with fungicide or pesticides, that will also count towards the certified Organic Certification, correct?

Ian:
Yes, that’s right. The whole management of the farm comes under the audit process. We certainly cannot use any chemicals, weedicides or any sort of medications within our system and that’s what we are checked on each year.

Brad [7:40]:
Why do chooks get their beaks trimmed on mainstream farms?

Ian:
Well the reason why beak trimming is used throughout the poultry industry and particularly now with these intensive free range systems that are promoted at the moment, the birds are crowded in so much, there is a big social pressure on the birds that they do become aggressive trying to maintain their place.

Brad [8:00]:
Well there you have it. Thank you very much Ian, for giving your time today. We really learned quite a lot coming out here. So that’s the difference guys, that’s why you pay an extra few dollars per dozen eggs when you go to a farmers market or an organic store or something like that to buy eggs. It really is worth the extra money. Thanks very much Ian, for your time.

COMMENT: Does this video make you want to source better quality eggs from naturally raised chickens? Why or why not?

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