Free range eggs come from many chicken farms in South Africa – not many of them have any idea about green chicken farming practices – paying only lip service these egg producers work on the line when it comes to the regulations – and they are not very good either. Free range egg farming was initially introduced to look after the welfare of the chickens and the quality of the eggs – all it is now, is a way to get a premium on the egg price. True free range should be closer to organic egg farming but unfortunately many of the chicken farmers who offer free range eggs have no concern for the welfare of the chickens.
Free Range eggs - really good tasting eggs
The chicken coops for the hens are as small as the regulations stipulate and the free range areas are often barren and devoid of grass and trees – as chicken farming goes – this is not proper free range – the chickens should have space, green cover in the free range area and be allowed to forage for bugs and insects – how many poultry farms can say they actively try and make this happen – very few. Poultry equipment for free range egg farming, like gas heaters and drinkers, are no different from standard poultry equipment – so why the big drag to farm properly? Organics Africa is trying to set up a standard between free range and organic chicken farming -PGSSA is a group trying to raise the standard of food production in South Africa whilst also trying to find farming solutions that suit small emerging farmers in South Africa. Perhaps when they have got their ducks in a row the South Africa public will be able to buy proper free range eggs – and not eggs that are merely called free range. Happy eggs means happy humans – what is so hard?
Layer cages, used in the traditional sense cannot be described as green or green chicken farming. This form of intensive egg production is banned in EU countries but allowed in South Africa and most all African Countries. Layer cages are used for keeping layer chickens in. The birds are kept in a very small space. A layer cage – 2.450m Long x 1.870m Wide x 1.650m High will have 16 segments each with 7 chickens in each segment. The chickens will stay in this small space for about 40 weeks. (if they are placed at 20 weeks old – which is called a pullet or point of lay chicken) They stand on mesh and live so close together that they will have to be de-beaked (the practice of cutting the beaks back) in order for them not to hurt each other. Whilst they have ample food and water – the living conditions do not fit with “Green” principles.
The food they are given will be specifically designed to produce the highest yield – which is just less than one egg per day with each layer eating 125 grams of feed per day. In a layer/breeder house (designed to produce eggs for a hatchery to supply day old birds) the chickens are kept in a chicken house which has nest boxes. (the cocks need access to the hens). This form of brooding (nest boxes) can be considered green if the chickens have free range access to the outside. The nest boxes are only there for the hens to lay in – they will then leave the nest box until they are ready to lay again. With so many chickens living so close together – in a layer cage or a broiler house, high dosages of medication are given – all of this obviously ends up in the ground water or remains in the bird – for us to eat.
After the layers have peaked and are no longer producing enough eggs they are removed from the layer cages or nest boxes and sold as cull – and usually ends up being sold as live birds or to the low end price market (in Africa) as chicken meat. The meat is not great to eat – as the chicken, by this time, is quite tough and full of chemicals.