Tuesday, March 6, 2012


We get a lot of calls about our eggs - what is the difference between our free range eggs vs. conventional, grocery store, and organic eggs.  What kind of hens do we use, what do we feed them, are they in cages, etc.  So here are the facts:

Conventional eggs - produced by hens confined in battery cages inside huge "factory" chicken houses containing up to 250,000 hens each, account for more than 90% of U.S. egg production.   Unfortunately these poor hens live a short, unhealthy, unhappy life crammed into a 3 foot long cage with 4-5 other hens, not even able to spread their wings.  More often than not one of their cell mates is dead or dying, diseases are prevalent (hence the frequent use of antibiotics), and the SMELL is horrifying.  This is clearly not a humane or healthy situation for the chickens, does not promote the creation of healthy eggs for customers, but you can sure crank out a lot of eggs at very low cost.  If you want to see what these places are really like, visit the site www.eggindustry.com.

Some factory farms have upgraded their facilities to "Cage-Free" - which is certainly a step up...but not by much. Thousands of hens are still crammed into a large smelly building without ever seeing the light of day, fresh air, or a blade of grass.  And because of this high concentration of birds, feed, and poop, it is still very difficult to keep the hens healthy, hence the high use of antibiotics.

Free-Range is not a regulated term, so any factory farmer that does not cage their hens can also claim they are "free-range", even if the hens are free ranging on a slab of concrete. 

Organic eggs are better than conventional, in that these hens are fed only certified organic feed - grown without herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and routine use of antibiotics.  HOWEVER, the vast majority of organic egg producers are now factory farms, raising the hens in huge cage-free confinement facilities where the required "access" to the outdoors is a small door leading to a barren yard.  These farms might meet the technical requirements specified to label their eggs "organic", but they certainly are not meeting the spirit of the guidelines.

Your healthiest and most humane choice is to eat PASTURED EGGs - laid by hens that have daily access to fresh pasture where they can forage for grasses, legumes, weeds, forbs, seeds, worms, bugs, and mineral-rich soil.  Hens with access to fresh pasture will ingest up to 50% of their diet from the pasture, providing them with a very healthy, natural diet and plenty of greens.   With this superior diet they are healthier, happier, and of course lay the healthiest eggs for us to eat.  In fact there are a number of scientific studies that demonstrate eggs from pasture-raised hens are much higher in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Beta-Carotene, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids than eggs from conventional factory farms.  Of course all these nutrients are in the bright orange yolks, so don't settle for the egg whites only.  Learn more about the health advantages of pastured eggs HERE.

Here at Barrington Natural Farms, our hens spend the spring, summer, and fall free-ranging out of the FreeBird II, their mobile egg house that we move every few days, typically following the cows pasture rotations.  We encircle the FreeBird II with a portable electric fence that gives them plenty of space to forage, but protects them from the coyotes and foxes.  We supplement their pasture forage with certified organic feed from Cashton Farm Supply.   In the winter when the grass is not growing and the ground is too cold to move the portable fencing, our hens live in a large "greenhouse" where they have plenty of room to roam and an open door to go outside when the weather is not too bad.  We feed the organic grass and alfalfa hay in the winter to get them enough roughage and vegetation in their diets.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments about eggs or different egg production systems.