Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Difference Between "Pastured" & "Free Range"

The following is a short article that I wrote to a newspaper on the difference between Pastured hens and Free Range hens, commenting on the lack of tranparency in labeling practices in the egg industry.

I am a farmer, I produce organic eggs. My hens are "Pastured" i.e. they live in moveable coops in my organic pastures. I read your article entitled "Ethical Eggs Ruling the Roost." Eggs marked from "Free Range" hens are one of the most misleading labels in the egg industry, although you got it right by stating that they are free to "roam in a barn", the label, for most customers conjures up visions of hens roaming free in grassy meadows, which of course is untrue. There are currently no regulations or enforcement that the hens actually ever go outside, or that there is very much space to "roam" once they get there, which most of them seldom do. Another problem area is the touting of "vegetarian diet" chickens are not vegetarian. Your article speaks about the "rich yellow yolks" and "higher omega-3" the color is obtained by Barn Raised hens by adding coloring capable ingredients in the feed.

The public needs to be aware of these misleading labels, and need to be made aware of what "Pastured" or "Pasture Raised means. It means that the hens live in pastures and all day long eat as much as 30% of their diets from the pasture, e.g., they eat; grass, bugs, grasshoppers, worms, grubs and so forth. In this way they get their natural source of Omega-3 from the fresh green grasses, and their need for "animal" protein from the insects, worms and such.

Pastured eggs are naturally nutrient dense, the rich golden-yellow yolks are a result of their diet and lifestyle. Lifestyle which includes being able to take dust baths, a natural habit of chickens, one which "Free Range" or "Barn Raised" hens do not have the opportunity to do.

"Free Range" is a definite improvement over cage raised, or battery raised hens; however, Pastured or Pasture Raised hens produce an even healthier, humane and more nutrient dense eggs than any other farming method. These are the eggs like the ones that our forbears raised by cooperating with nature and allowing chickens to truly express their full nature as chickens by living in the out of doors, under the sun where they are much healthier and suffer far less disease than Free Range hens who live in crowded barns and breathe air that will burn the nose of any creature with its high ammonia content.

I would appreciate an article that tells the public about Pastured eggs. To do so you may contact me, for I produce just this kind of egg.

Jerry Cunningham


sara said...

Right on! You've hit one of my pet peeves on labels and how they mislead well-intentioned consumers. I found your post while doing a rant on "vegetarian chickens" and "hormone-free pork"

Kay said...

Thank you for this enlightening article! Even though this was written in 2007, many of us consumers are just now learning the difference.