The Fallacy of Free Range Eggs

If you look for it, you will find news of a worldwide outbreak of Bird Flu. We have been following it closely on VGN but its barely made the mainstream news here in the UK despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of birds have been “culled” over the past few weeks.

The UK poultry industry has been told that all birds must be kept indoors until further notice and this is giving egg producers a rather large headache. The problem is that if the birds are still being kept inside at the end of February, under EU laws, they will lose their “Free Range” status and will have to be re-labelled as “Barn Eggs”. This accounts for approximately 50% of all the eggs on supermarket shelves.

My heart bleeds.

For the most part, free range is a joke. It conjures thoughts of birds roaming “freely” around a field, chirping away happily. This is not the case. To qualify as free range, the birds have to be allowed access to the outside for at least part of the day. This can mean opening a small door at one end of a huge shed for as little as five minutes. Most of the birds don’t even know it is open and couldn’t get to it even if they tried.

But to mindless consumers it makes them feel better about their eggs. “Sure they may cost a little more, but at least the chickens are well treated.” The level of denial that surrounds the disgusting meat, dairy and egg industries is palpable. The fear of change, of going against what they have been told since childhood is so great, its simply too much for most people.

To sit down to eat and feel anxious about the ethics of your meal must be a horrible feeling. To comfort yourself with the fact that because everyone else does it, it must be OK is the way most people deal with it. The most dangerous phrase in any language is we have always done it this way.

So what will everyone do when there are no more free range eggs? They may not have to worry. The poultry industry have petitioned the EU for an extension. They want the rules changed, rules they never questioned in the past, they now want changed.

Now I am not sure how this will play out, but I have to think that the EU is in no mood to do the UK any favours. In fact if I was sitting on the EU bird flu committee I would be rubbing my hands together with glee.

Rules are rules farmers and the fact is that by the end of February you will have kept these birds locked up for 12 weeks. I don’t believe they were ever truly free range, what I do know is by the end of this month they will certainly not be.

Nick Bean

Environmentalist, activist, writer and public speaker. Decided to "Go Vegan" at the age of four.

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