The search for real eggs at your local market and concern for animal welfare are connected at the root. Find farmers who are concerned about their hens’ daily living conditions and you are well on your way to great-tasting, wholesome eggs. At Bethesda Farm, our guiding principle is “the chicken comes first, then the egg.”
Cage-Free, Free-Range, Pasture-Raised. Says Who? Watch “The Story of an Egg”
One key to finding real eggs is isolating the difference between “marketing guidelines” and bonafide egg quality and animal welfare standards. Other than the term “organic,” there isn’t much regulation of the terms used to sell eggs.
As awareness grows about the plight of caged egg-laying birds, there has been a move to “cage-free” eggs. Cage-free birds, as the name implies, aren’t kept in cages; however, as the video “The Story of an Egg” points out, the term “cage-free” doesn’t tell us much else about the living conditions of “cage-free” hens. In fact, terms such as “cage-free”, “free-range” and even “pasture-raised” are essentially marketing descriptions with no actual standards behind them. They tend to create confusion rather than provide easily recognizable systems that provide reliable egg quality and animal welfare conditions.
Living Space Comparisons
Bethesda Farm has been certified as “Mobile Houses on Pasture” (soon to become “Pasture Living”) according to Whole Foods Egg Standards. Before we look at the requirements for this certification, below is a graphic that visually demonstrates the typical difference in living space for the various “marketing terms” mentioned above.
As you can see, there is a wide discrepancy between “cage-free” hens and “pasture-raised” hens. But the difference is not only in the amount of space that they receive. Cage-free hens, though arguably better off than caged birds, may still never see the sunshine or a blade of grass.
Bethesda Farm Eggs: Beyond Pasture-Raised
However, even eggs labeled “pasture-raised” can vary widely in quality; and that is where egg quality and animal welfare standards and certifications play an important role. Bethesda Farm is proud to be classified “Mobile Houses on Pasture” by Whole Food’s “Animal Welfare for Laying Hens” standards. Here’s a description of the standard:
For our other pasture-raised label, Mobile Houses on Pasture, hens live outdoors with mobile housing for laying eggs, roosting at night and sheltering during storms. The house is moved as needed to ensure continuous access to at least 75% vegetative cover, and to allow the previous area’s vegetation to recover. Cover and shade must accommodate 100% of the birds. Beak trimming is prohibited.
At Bethesda Farm, we like to say, “The Chicken Comes First, Then the Egg.” We know that if we want to produce the best-tasting, most nutritious eggs available at local markets, then we simply need to provide the hens at Bethesda Farm with living conditions that let them express themselves as chickens. The hens spend there days in a peaceful, natural setting, outdoors on organic pastures. They eat grass and bugs from the pasture and receive only organic, non-GMO feed. All that goodness, of course, makes its way into Bethesda Farm Eggs: they are great tasting and super healthy, with a naturally higher Omega-3-to-Omega-6 ratio, an important factor in your body’s ability to absorb the essential Omega-3’s.
Have a question or comment about Bethesda Farm Eggs? Use the form in the right column or contact us.
Have a great day!