When you buy your eggs from a supermarket you are likely to find three choices – cage, barn and free range. Free range eggs are often touted as the most humane option as it means the hen has been free to roam around outside instead of being crammed into a small shed with thousands of other hens. Sadly, it has become increasingly evident that free-range does not always mean what we expect it to.
The current industry standard for free-range production is 1,500 birds per hectare. This standard is set by government bodies and is currently under review. Late last year the Australian Egg Corporation called for this industry standard to be increased to 20,000 birds per hectare. It also admitted that some facilities are stocking closer to 30 to 40,000 hens per hectare and still labelling their eggs as free range. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was called upon to investigate the matter and found that increasing the standard would likely result in consumers being deceived.
In January of this year Coles introduced their own standard for ‘free range’ egg production which allows stocking densities of up to 10,000 hens per hectare. Then, in July of this year, the Queensland government changed its regulation of the use of the word ‘free range’, lifting the number of hens per hectare from 1,500 to an astounding 10,000.
Ever wondered what that might look like? Check out this video….
As Queensland was increasing their free range egg guidelines the South Australian government was considering whether to establish a voluntary industry code for free range eggs that would enable consumers to know when they were buying the real deal. This move was met with overwhelming support and at the breakfast I attended 18,000 postcards were delivered to Mr Rau to demonstrate that he had the support of South Aussie consumers.
The new code, while voluntary, will help consumers determine whether or not the eggs they are buying are truly free range as they will be able to display a sticker that states they are ‘South Australian Laid, Free Range Egg Code Compliant’. There are already accreditation schemes in place that enable you as a consumer to determine whether your eggs are the real deal, the Humane Society for example, run an accreditation scheme that limits the number of hens to 1,500 per hectare and outlaws the practice of beak trimming. The proposed code is an extension of this type of scheme and the first such scheme to be regulated at a state level.
If you’re not sure whether the eggs you are buying are indeed the ‘real deal’ then keep an eye out for a free-range accreditation sticker on the carton. It’s not enough just to buy the pack that says ‘free range’, especially if you’re shopping at one of the big chain supermarkets. A handy guide on this can be found here.
Roast Mushroom & Kale Frittata
At the breakfast I received some gorgeous Katham Springs biodynamic free range eggs. The yolks were lovely and golden and perfect for this luscious frittata made with yoghurt, kale and roasted mushrooms.
- 1 cup brown mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 tspn minced garlic
- ½ tspn ground cumin
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme, roughly chopped
- 6-8 black olives, pitted and halved
- 1 tbspn slivered almonds
- 1 tbspn rice bran oil
- Pinch of salt and cracked black pepper
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup natural yoghurt
- 2 tbspns of parmesan cheese
- 1 tbspn fresh dill, finely chopped
- 8-10 kale leaves, finely chopped
- 30g blue cheese (or other salty cheese of choice)
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and grease a small ovenproof pan with a little cooking spray.
- Add mushrooms, garlic, cumin, thyme, olives, almonds, oil and seasoning to the well-greased pan and toss well to coat.
- Pop in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
- While the mushrooms are roasting, add the eggs to a medium sized bowl and whisk.
- Add the yoghurt, parmesan and dill and mix well.
- Remove the pot from the oven; add the kale followed by the egg mixture. Gently push the mushrooms around the pan to encourage an even coverage.
- Sprinkle the top with blue cheese and pop back in the oven for another 15 minutes (or so), until the top is golden and it is cooked in centre.
- Serve with a green garden salad.
Disclaimer: I dined courtesy of the Humane Society and received a dozen free-range eggs, some of which I used to prepare this dish. There was no expectation for me to write this post – I proudly support this important issue and receive no payment for doing so. If you’d like to find out more about this campaign please check out the campaign website: humanechoice.com.au