Please welcome guest blogger Ferox. Ferox is a Veterinary Student in Australia. Read her blog, Nearly-Dr Ferox, here.
Walk through your local supermarket and you will be presented with three types of eggs that you may chose to purchase. They’re mostly all brown, about the same size and difficult to differentiate based on taste. What sets these eggs apart is how they are produced and the price you pay for them. Cage eggs are laid by chickens in intensive factory situations. These eggs are the cheapest to produce, but many people consider farming eggs in this way to be unethical because the chickens are kept in limited space indoors, suffer health problems such as osteoporosis and can’t engage in ‘normal behaviours’. While this is largely true it should be pointed out that laying chickens in all systems develop osteoporosis (as do dairy cows), and normal behaviour for chickens consists largely of bullying, or being bullied by, the other chickens. These chickens have their diseases controlled and treated rapidly and easily and are not vulnerable to predators or the weather. Barn eggs are laid by chickens that are kept inside large barns with straw or sawdust to walk around on. These birds have the opportunity to walk around a large area and interact with each other, whilst still being protected from the weather and predators. There is a slightly bigger disease problem with chickens in these sheds because faeces can contact heir food, but it is usually manageable. Free range eggs inspire thoughts of chickens wandering around the farmyard, pecking at grubs and plants in the lovely warm sunshine while somebody’s granddaughter collects their eggs. Most commercial free range farms aren’t like this. While some are what you, the general consumer, imagines ‘free range’ to be, many are just barn operations that opened the doors so that the chooks could go outside if they wanted to. What end up happening is that the chickens don’t walk more than 10 metres away from the sheds. Over time the ground around the sheds becomes polluted and acidic and the local environment degrades terribly. The birds are exposed to the extremes of the weather, predators, parasites and other diseases. These eggs are most expensive. When shopping for eggs, I choose Barn Laid Eggs because I have found them to be a good compromise between the liberties of the chicken and practical issues. Ferox is a Veterinary Student studying in Melbourne who will graduate in 2009. She runs a blog about her experiences and knowledge called Nearly-Dr Ferox