A bakers guide to the best supermarket eggs
I adore my hens, but they're currently moulting and so have decided to take some time off. So I've been forced into the supermarket to buy my eggs for the first time in a long time, and in doing so I was faced with a dilemma, I didn't recognise many of the brands that were on the shelves! Standing there in the supermarket trying to read all the boxes about hens per hectare and comparing that to the ones that listed hens per square meter....honestly, it became overwhelming, and I ended up just grabbing the one that 'looked' the most ethical. I know right... how can a carton of eggs look ethical? Maybe it was because the farmer was hugging a cute Border Collie on the front, or maybe it was because the band name was The Good Farmer? Who knows... and now because I've used the word ethical, you're freaking out thinking I'm about to go on some animal activist rant... well, I sort of am. This post IS about the best eggs to bake with, but it just so happens that ethical, free-range farming is better than the latter taste wise too!
Why do free-range eggs taste so much better?
Because on true free-range farms hens are allowed to venture outdoors on a daily basis, munch on insects, plants, and everything they would eat naturally, and then all that nutritional goodness is put into an egg. Nutritionally, free-range eggs have twice the omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, seven times more provitamin A, the yolks contain more lutein and zeaxanthin which are important antioxidants for eye health, but this nutrient-rich diet coupled with the fact that they're active, happy, and healthy ultimately results in a much richer tasting egg with a beautifully vibrant yolk, literally EVERYONE I've ever given my free-range eggs to has commented on how amazing they taste, and that's exactly the kind of egg you want in your cakes!
It's not as easy as just picking free-range.
The technical standard according to the Australian government are that free-range means that a farm can only have up to 10,000 hens per hectare, but they don't all actually have to have access to the outdoors every day. That means they're not getting to all those good insects and plants that make their eggs taste so great!
The CSIRO's Model Code of Practice, however, says that for a farm to be free-range there should be a maximum of 15,00 hens per hectare, but all must have access to an outdoor range daily.
Here's the stats.
Government Standard Free Range
Ecoeggs Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
Manning Valley Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
Woolworths Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
Natures Best Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
Pace Farm Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
Veggs for Family Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
Port Stephens Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
Coles Free Range Eggs - 10,000 hens per hectare.
NOTE: Ecoeggs, has been fined previously for falsely claiming to be free range.
CSIRO Standard Free Range
Sunny Queen Free Range Eggs - 15,000 hens per hectare.
Southern Highlands Organic Free Range Eggs - 800 hens per hectare.
Happy Chickens Free Range Eggs - 15,000 hens per hectare.
The Good Farmer Free Range Eggs - 15,000 hens per hectare
Macro Organic Free Range Eggs - 1000 hens per hectare.
Family Homestead Free Range Eggs - 750 hens per hectare.
Down on the Farm Free Range Eggs - 15,000 hens per hectare.
Ok... maybe I am going to go a tiny bit animal activist on you for a moment.
NOTE: Sunny Queen Farms, although their free-range farms are 'proper' free range farms, they also sell caged eggs. I've put them on this list anyway because I wanted you to have all the information in order to make your own decision, but I for one avoid buying even their free-range eggs as I'm apposed to supporting a company that is farming battery hens.
So which supermarket eggs come from the happiest, healthiest hens?
In my opinion...
#1 Family Homestead Free Range Eggs
They have the least hens per hectare, and in their own words, they're dedicated to animal welfare and old fashioned tasting free-range eggs. I like the sound of that!
#2 Southern Highlands Organic Free Range Eggs
These eggs have the extra advantage of being organic, to be labelled as organic 4/5 of each hectare is to be pastured, not concrete! There is also the added health benefits of not having chemicals or medications in their feeds of which can also be present in the egg.
#3 Macro Organic Free Range Eggs
A few more hens per hectare, but with the organic label, it's guaranteed that 4/5 of each hectare is to be pastured, not concrete! Plus all the health benefits that go with them being fed organic feed.
#4 Happy Chickens Free Range Eggs
At maximum hens per hectare and not being labelled organic there's no minimum pasture guarantee, but they are RSPCA approved, which means their living conditions have been inspected and approved by the leading authority in animal welfare.
#5 The Good Farmer Free Range Eggs & Down On The Farm Free Range Eggs
My gut instinct to go for the carton with the Border Collie on the front wasn't all that wrong after all.
But if you want my honest opinion... none of the above factors beat farm fresh. So if you can't house your own flock, or if your flock is on strike like mine, visit the local farmers' markets and ask after free range eggs there instead. You'll be helping a local farmer out, and you'll be getting the freshest eggs from some of the happiest healthiest hens around!
These are just the brands I've found in my local Ballarat Supermarkets, if you have a different brand you want to check out? Visit this link