By Jesame Geldenhuys
Many farms around Grahamstown are choosing a more compassionate way of egg-farming to keep their chickens happy and free, and to ultimately produce a healthier and tastier egg. There are outlets supplying free-range eggs all over Grahamstown; Earth Produce, Under the Arch, Fusion, Lungi’s…the list goes on.
True free-range eggs are increasingly being referred to as ‘pasture-raised’. Hens roam freely in outdoor fields to forage for food, natural to their diets, like seeds, insects and worms. Free-range eggs come at a premium and this often dissuades people from buying them.
John and Roz Davies, local farmers on Three Chimneys Farm in Grahamstown, have been farming pasture-raised eggs for about 14 years.
“We let the chickens out during the day, they roam around in the fields with the goats. They have a little access gate to let themselves in and out during the day and egg boxes to lay their eggs in,” explains Roz Davies.
“They live in comfort and have a happy life all round. They love the grass, the freedom and to just roam outside,” says Davies. “The main difference between free-range and commercial farming is in commercial farms, the chickens are confined in small cages.”
Commercial farms often have hundreds to thousands of hens making it difficult for them to wander freely. Davies also explains that there are some flimsy definitions of ‘free-range’ that do not offer the appropriate amount of natural space for the chickens. This makes it important to know where your free-range egg is coming from.
So, why choose free-range? Does an egg from a freely-roaming chicken taste differently?
Yes, says Davies. A free chicken makes a happy chicken. Davies says, “the difference can mainly be seen in the freshness compared to a commercial egg. The chickens have green grass and fresh air and you can see a difference in the yolks.”
Eggs are beneficial sources of protein, but only if they are raised naturally. Studies have confirmed that true free-range, or pasture-raised eggs are much more nutritious than commercially-raised eggs.
Mother Earth News did an egg-testing project in 2007 in the U.S.A and found that hens raised on pasture had:
Three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene, 1/3 less cholesterol, ¼ less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A and twice the omega-3 fatty acids of commercially-raised eggs.
The results are eggs-traordinary! Pasture-raised eggs are healthier and worth the small extra cost that comes with them.
John and Roz Davies sell their pasture-raised eggs at the farmer’s market at the old Gaol every Saturday.
Read more about the nutritional advantages of free-range eggs here.