What is the difference between Pastured and Free Range Eggs?
Blythe and Gregg from Runnymede Farm are proud pastured egg producers. Blythe has explained for us how their system differs from a standard free range system.
Free range is the commercial standard for managing hens - under free range classification, there can be up to 10,000 hens per hectare, although some producers may run as low as 1,500 hens per hectare. Free range hens are permanently housed in fixed sheds and must have access to outdoors. There are doors from the shed that are opened during daylight hours to an outdoor area. The outdoor area they are occupying is not usually managed on a rotational basis. As the hens are continually scratching around in the same area, it becomes a bare patch of dirt.
Pasture raised eggs come from hens that have access to pasture year round. Blythe and Greg’s philosophy is to allow their hens to experience the best quality of life for a chicken. This means that their hens can express their natural behaviours, which include preening, dust bathing, foraging for insects, eating green grass, and sunbathing.
To achieve this, their hens are housed in mobile chicken tractors that are moved weekly onto fresh pasture. A tractor houses 400 chickens within a 50m x 50m netting fence, or 2,500 square metres, which is the equivalent of 1,600 hens per hectare. To protect them from foxes and birds of prey, each tractor is accompanied by a maremma guardian dog.
Blythe and Greg’s production system includes nutrient cycling, multi species pasture and multi species grazing, and the hens play a vital part in regenerating Runnymede.