Buying Free Range Eggs? What Does "Free Range" Mean?
There is an encouraging trend in hen's egg buying these days. Many institutions are moving towards selling only eggs from non-caged or battery birds. California has made the move to gradually phase out battery egg operations in the next few years. The Vancouver Island Health Authority(VIHA) has recently allowed the sale of ungraded eggs at farmers' markets and to the public. Safety issues regarding cleanliness and refridgeration still apply as before. This opens up a market for the small scale producer and makes it more convenient for those who wish to purchase eggs produced by hens who have access to grass and grasshoppers. Egg producers in BC who do not have a quota, are limited to 99 hens per farmer and so are little competition to those holding quotas for many thousands of birds.
Large egg operations in the province of BC utilize the 24 birds to a four foot cage mainly, but have seen the trend in the public's thinking and are making moves to obtain a share of the "free range egg" market. Many of the public think that the term "free range" means that the hens have access to the outside and can run freely and dust bathe. It can mean that, but it doesn't have to. There are currently, in BC no regulations regarding this term. The hens may have a yard to circulate in but be turned out in it very occasionally or not at all.
In the accompanying video, you can see the hens in a large, Vancouver Island operation that are producing "free range" eggs. Their fate is miles better than the other thousands on the property that spend their lives crammed into cages, but it is not one spent on green grass under blue skies.
Buying "free range" eggs is a step in the right direction. You should know what you are getting for the extra money. Find out how the food you eat is really produced. There are many small flocks out there that produce a superior product.