Tips and techniques

What’s the deal with free range eggs?

When it comes to picking your eggs for your morning omelette or rich chocolate souffle, more and more people are opting for the free-range varieties for ethical reasons. But, what is a free-range egg? And is it actually the better option?
poached eggs and mushrooms

In Australia, we have a wide variety of fresh produce available in our supermarkets and farmers markets. Most food products have a variety of different options available, from the cheaper-budget brands, to organic, unrefined whole foods.

There are generally three types of commercial eggs available to consumers (if you aren’t eating eggs from your own chickens): cage, barn laid and free range.

Choice states Australia saw a 65 per cent increase in free-range egg purchases last year, with the number continuing to grow. But what does it actually mean?

What are free-range eggs?

Free-range eggs are considered to be eggs laid by hens who are free to roam around a certain area of the farm, and are not kept in cages. For eggs to be labelled free range, the Model Code of Practice state there should be no more than 1500 hens for every hectare of land. However, some brands that claim to be free range may house as many as 10,000 chickens for every hectare.

Do free range eggs taste better?

While some people swear by the superior flavour of free-range eggs, it’s actually what the hens are fed, rather than how they are farmed, that affects the taste.

However, chickens that are allowed to roam free may consume food that caged hens wouldn’t otherwise eat, affecting the flavour of the yolk.

Try using your free-range eggs in this delicious Middle Eastern style shakshuka baked eggs recipe.

Make sense of the labels

RSPCA Approved: This label is given to all egg farms that meet general RSPCA standards, such as forbidding beak removal of hens. Barn-laid eggs may also be awarded this sticker, but the packaging should specify this on the label.

Free-range: These logos indicate the eggs have come a purely free-range farm.

Certified organic: These eggs come from farms that meet optimal free-range standards (and are entirely hormone free). However, the word ‘organic’ could be included on the package if the hens are simply fed organic grains. Look for the specific ‘certified’ label.

Barn laid: These are eggs that come from hens who are not housed in cages and can move around. They’re usually kept inside a barn and are not let outside to freely wander.

Where can we find them?

Most good supermarkets will stock a selection of cage, barn-laid and free-range eggs. You’ll also be able to find free-range eggs at your local farmers markets.

If you get a chance, have a chat with the farmer and find out more about how their hens are kept, and how fresh their eggs are.

Looking for ways to use your free-range eggs? Check these out:

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