Current Affairs

Buying genuine free range eggs and chicken

With so many labels on chicken and eggs, how do we know what we’re buying?

By Kevin Milne
Genuine free range eggs and chicken - eggs on toast

I am confused over which chicken and eggs to buy. I want to support humane and best-practice chicken farming but am confused over all the terms, such as “barn-raised”, “corn-fed”, etc. I have even gone to some of the suppliers’ websites but leave them almost as confused. I’m worried I might get sucked into a cunningly worded public-relations blurb. Can you help?

Apparently, only about five percent of chicken farms are genuinely free range, but then the question arises – what’s your definition of free range? The issue is further complicated by the fact that animal rights group SAFE, which I respect, opposes all factory farming of chicken. But if you think that’s going too far, I recommend you buy only eggs and chicken that have the SPCA’s Blue Tick on the packaging. This indicates that the product meets the SPCA’s free-range standards. Only about 30% of farms that claim to be free range have applied and been awarded the Blue Tick.

Makes you wonder why others don’t. I’m not saying that no other suppliers have humane chicken-raising practices on their farms, but without an independent check from experts, it becomes almost impossible for the ordinary consumer to identify them. And as far as I can make out, the SPCA currently runs the only demanding independent check specifically to help consumers. Whether “free range” is actually free range has become a very hot issue. At least, with the Blue Tick, you can be pretty confident you’re not being fooled by clever words. Good on you for caring.

Do you have a consumer question for Kevin? Email consumer@nzww.co.nz, or post to Weekly Consumer, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

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