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Wednesday Round Up 02/02/11

In today's news round up, revisit what all those labels on your eggs really mean.

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Free Range? Vegetarian Fed? Organic? Learn Your Egg Labels

Free range, officially, means that “the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” For some farmers, this means a barnyard. For others, this means a single window or door for 10,000 animals. Similarly, while “cage free” does make a difference to animals (who are no longer having their wings broken by tiny cages) it doesn’t actually mean animals get to wander around the forest, as in the fantasies of Whole Foods shoppers.

Vegetarian-fed means just what it sounds like. Organic is a useful label, since the USDA specifically regulates and enforces the definition. “To be certified organic, the eggs must come from chickens that are cage-free and “free-range,” fed only vegetarian, certified-organic feed.” If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all term for the best supermarket eggs, organic is probably your best bet. On the other hand, we suggest two possible alternatives.

First, do a little research. Google some of the eggs you find in the supermarket – the brands you should trust will have extensive descriptions of farms, housing conditions and provenance, with pictures. Plus, look for any scandalous articles about reporters touring the laying houses. Or, and this is our favorite option, buy local eggs from a producer you can actually talk to. It’s amazing how small the difference in price is between a local egg and an egg from the supermarket labelled “organic” – in fact, the local egg may be cheaper.

At the author’s suggestion, I did a quick Google search myself. Woolworths is the one retailer to watch in SA for eggs as:

All our eggs are now free range
Our free-range hens live and grow in conditions where they are allowed to thrive and enjoy normal life. They roam outdoors during the day and spend their nights in barns, and they feed on a vegetarian diet of grains and pulses, which contain no animal by-products or fishmeal.

Their site gives descriptions of where their eggs come from and other information. At this point, almost all their products are made with free range eggs. Read Urban Sprout’s post on the matter Egging Woolworths On for more information as there was some controversy over their claims. According to Urban Sprout, by 2012, the remaining 600 products they stock in store will only use free range eggs.

You can also read Roline’s post on whether it is ok to eat eggs as a vegetarian where she provides some useful numbers for where you can buy organic eggs.

Some stockists for organic eggs:
If you know of a trader in organic eggs in your area, please let us know so that we can update this list!
If you buy from Woolies, you can generally be satisfied that their free range means their hens do go outside. But, their ready-made meals all use battery-farmed eggs and do not use the free-range kind.
• Organic Shop in Constantia +27 (0) 21 794 1888
• Ingrid, a happy lady selling “happy” eggs on her small-holding in Cape Town +27 (0)21 794 1888
• Wellness Warehouses, especially the one in Kloof St.
• Farm markets generally all sell organic eggs. Try the ones in Tokai, Elgin and Biscuit Mill all on Saturdays
• You can get organic eggs online from the Ethical Co-Op at
• Camphill Farm +27 (0)28 313 8200 in Hermanus whose eggs are available on Saturdays at Christian Community Centre, Timour Hall Road, Plumstead.

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Laura Cooke is the editor and creator of the Veggie Bunch website and community.

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