Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can buy and they are cheap. Eggs are also one of nature’s most versatile ingredients – so many recipes contain them. If you care about the welfare of hens, it’s okay to eat free range eggs, isn’t it? The battery cage ban was introduced throughout Europe in January 2012, so why wouldn’t you want to eat eggs?
Unfortunately there is a misconception that all laying hens in the UK are either free range – enjoying the outside life, free to roam in green pastures like the hens depicted in television adverts or barn birds living in rustic hen houses with freedom to flap their wings www.bhwt.org.uk They’re not!
6 Reasons you should eat eggs
- A medium egg contains approximately 6g of natural protein.
- Eggs have all the 9 essential amino acids.
- Eggs contain only a trace of carbohydrates and no sugar.
- They are gluten free.
- In the UK 1 in 5 of us have inadequate levels of Vitamin D (sunlight being the best source but sometimes difficult to get!). A meal containing 2 medium sized eggs can give you two thirds of the amount of Vitamin D you need a day.
- A medium sized free range egg costs just 14 pence (approximately).
5 Reasons not to eat eggs
- All commercial laying hens are slaughtered at approximately 72 weeks of age – unless they are the lucky ones that are rescued.
- Approximately 48% of laying hens in the UK still live in cages. They never see natural daylight; still stand on wired floors and are routinely debeaked.
- Just under 2% of laying hens in the UK are kept in barns. These house tens of thousands of birds, and again they never see natural light and are routinely debeaked.
- Eggs labelled as free range must come from hens that have access to the outside – but not all hens actually venture outside. You cannot tell whether the free range egg you buy has come from a hen that has seen natural daylight or has remained inside a huge overcrowded shed.
- Male chicks are killed immediately after they are hatched – they are either gassed (which can take the bird two minutes to die) or they are thrown alive into macerators and ground up alive. Male chicks have no value to the egg industry.
Did You Know?
- UK eggs are illegal in US markets because they are unwashed, and US eggs are illegal in UK supermarkets because they are washed.
- In the UK we consume more than 12 billion eggs a year
- 2% organic
- up to 47% free range
- 48% caged
- remainder come from hens reared in barns
- You can generally tell whether an egg comes from a healthy chicken with access to the outside or from a chicken that is raised indoors, by the colour of the egg yolk. True free range chickens are likely to have darker yolks and better quality eggs.
- You can tell if an egg is bad by placing it in a large bowl of water. If the egg floats there’s a good chance it is bad wikihow.com If you crack open an egg and it’s bad you will know instantly because it smells like sulphur.
- To clear up an egg that has been accidentally dropped on the floor, sprinkle it heavily with salt to clean it up easily.
- Eggs should be stored below 20 degrees centigrade. (In the US they must be refrigerated).
- Eggs you buy in the supermarket can be up to 4 weeks old.
- It takes a chicken between 24 and 26 hours to produce an egg.
Eggs you can eat with a clear conscience
I am happy to eat “cruelty-free” eggs. These are eggs from hens that are considered too old for commercial laying and would otherwise have been killed at 72 weeks. Some vegans eat these eggs because the chickens are free to live out their natural lives. I do, however, appreciate that some vegetarians and vegans cannot eat eggs at all.
As a family, we first rescued some ex-battery hens in 2011. One of my daughters took this video
There’s nothing quite like seeing a hen experience freedom and take its first dust bath! I wrote this poem after watching our hens adjust to their new life.
Grace before Greed
In a suburb of Maidstone, rural and free,
Is a tiny village called West Farleigh,
And amid its fields of autumn gold,
Lies a chicken coop with a story to be told.
For in this coop lives more than one hen,
Saved from the hands of the battery men,
Six feathered birds with a second chance,
Peck and strut and flutter and dance.
How grateful they seem to be out of their cage,
With a chance to see life before their old age,
Their heads held high and their combs bright red,
If it weren’t for our love they would now be dead.
So next time you shop, whenever that will be,
Remember to search for the words ‘range free’
For a life of imprisonment we would abhor,
So why make the hen’s life like that anymore.
We continue to rescue hens from slaughter. Their eggs are beautiful and there is no comparison to a shop bought egg.
* The British Hen Welfare Trust saves around 50,000 hens from slaughter each year and finds them caring homes.
* The Hen Heaven Sanctuary is a sanctuary in West Sussex where over 700 former battery hens and turkeys find refuge. They sell eggs to the general public – in fact, most of the people who buy eggs from the sanctuary are vegans.
Cruelty-free eggs enable me to produce recipes with a clear conscience. Although I have rescued hens and they provide me with the eggs I need, I do appreciate that not everyone has the time or inclination to do the same. There are, however, an increasing number of people who re-home chickens or raise and care for chickens properly, who sell excess eggs in their locality. I doubt if there is any food as versatile as the egg. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are an essential ingredient for so many recipes yet they can be eaten alone. They can thicken, bind, leaven, glaze or garnish – their uses in the Kitchen know no bounds. And they are cheap! If you enjoyed this post I’d be very grateful if you would share it on Twitter.