Eggs Are Not What They Are All Cracked Up To Be

UK - Do you choose a box of eggs with your weekly shop because it says "country fresh", "Class A" or "organic" or has a picture of a hen sitting under a tree? Or do you pick up the newer but "retro" free-range pale blue, pink or eau-de-nil Clarence Court Old Cotswold Legbars favoured by celebrity chefs Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver?
calendar icon 6 August 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Most consumers have a vague notion that battery hens have a harsh life and their eggs are a "bad thing" so therefore it may be better to dig deeper into your pocket and pay more for alternatives produced by happier hens.

Yet a survey by the RSPCA in 2005 showed that while 85 per cent of Britons do not support battery-farming in eggs, 66 per cent of eggs produced in this country, sold in supermarkets and used in the production of processed food still come from battery hens.

To confuse things further, opinion in the egg world is divided, leaving many people none the wiser and highly susceptible to advertising buzz words.

In today's Scotsman Mary Lawton, food policy manager at the Scottish Consumer Council, warns shoppers are being misled by the confusing labelling on eggs and calls for "greater transparency" in the definitions used.

Ms Lawton says many consumers are being tricked into buying eggs kept in appalling conditions because of labels such as "barn fresh", which suggest humane treatment, even though the chickens often have little more space than battery hens.

Eggs are big business. Consumers fry, boil, poach, soufflé, scramble and beat their way through 29 million eggs a day. The market is worth £500 million per year.

With such high financial stakes to play for and the on-going debate on healthy eating, eggs are the latest battleground requiring shoppers to equip themselves with information to wield financial savvy. Confusion is rife...

"Free range" labels on eggs do not necessarily mean the hens are doing any walking. But if reared in excellent conditions they will do so - not something stated on the box.

Eggs labelled "free-range and organic" mean they get outside with space to roam.

"Class A" eggs sound like a good idea until you find out "Class B" refers to broken eggs which are pasteurised and sold on to the food industry.


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