German eggs: free range vs. cage-free vs. organic

44 posts in this topic

Posted

With Easter now behind us, I'm left wondering about German eggs: which ones are most humane for the chickens?

I read an article in the Tagesspiegel that said that the production of eggs from battery-cage chickens (Käfighaltung) was outlawed in Germany in 2009, but they are still being imported from other European countries. (They will be outlawed throughout the EU in 2012 - great news!)

So now we get to choose from the following:

  • Bodenhaltung - eggs from cage-free chickens
  • Freilandhaltung - eggs from free range chickens
  • Öko/Bio - organic eggs

(If I made any mistakes, please correct me!)

I realize that cage-free and free range aren't necessarily the same thing - my guess is that most cage-free chickens are still kept in big sheds, with no natural light, no fresh air, no opportunity to go outside and root around in the soil, or do all those good things that make a chicken's life worth living.

But what about the Öko or Bio eggs?

In the US, organic just means that the animals have to be fed certified organic food; if they are allowed to go outside, the fields have to be guaranteed X amount of years pesticide-free, etc. However, it is not a requirement that they can roam free. In the US, free range is often much more humane than organic - organic has nothing to do with how the animals are actually treated! They could be chained to a food trough, or kept inside a tiny cage, or have their beaks seared and tails docked, just as long as they are fed organic food and not pumped full of steroids/antibiotics.

But in the Netherlands, for instance, Bio automatically also means the animals are treated in the most humane way possible. Free range, allowed to go outside, in a natural habitat, etc etc.

So what is the deal here in Germany?

BTW for those interested, eggs here are stamped with a number: 0 for Öko, 1 for free range, 2 for cage-free and 3 for caged. Unfortunately, according to the article in Tagesspiegel, there is a lot of fraud with the stamps and many eggs are (deliberately) mislabeled. Still, if you do come across eggs stamped with a 3, it's best to remember Kauf kein Ei mit 3 ("don't buy an egg with a 3").

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Posted

Like in most places, organic/bio gets you a product of the same nutritional content, for twice the price.

I buy the eggs with an L on the box. And I buy the cheap ones.

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Posted

According to this site, chickens which produce organic eggs must have access to the outdoors and must always have fresh air and a lot of daylight. But it doesn't say exactly what this should involve.

Das natürliche Verhalten der Hühner steht in der ökologischen Haltung im Vordergrund. Die Hühner müssen einen Auslauf ins Freie haben. Vorgeschrieben sind auch ständig Frischluft und viel Tageslicht. Die Legehennen bekommen ökologisch erzeugtes Futter, jedes Huhn hat Raum zum Ruhen, Laufen, Picken, Scharren, Staub- und Sandbaden. Ein Scharrraum mit eingestreutem Stroh, Sägemehl, Dinkelspelzen, Sand oder Steinmehl ist vorgeschrieben.

Perhaps the best way of finding out how the animals were being kept would be to visit the farm. I've a feeling I saw something on TV recently where that was suggested.

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Posted

Read Michael Pollan:

The second meal is provisioned by "big organic"--which is to say, Whole Foods. Pollan cleverly identifies what the grocery chain sells: an appealing story. He calls this art form "supermarket pastoral," the reassuring tale that backs the happy cow grazing on the milk carton, or the label attached to "Rosie," the " `sustainably-farmed' `free-range chicken.' " Then Pollan tracks down cow and chicken. He finds that organic milk is often produced on factory farms where cows never see grass. Rosie "lives in a shed with twenty thousand other Rosies, who, aside from their certified organic feed, live lives little different from that of any other industrial chicken." Her "free-range" lifestyle is afforded by a door at the end of her coop, unlatched during the last two weeks of her life.

Pollan watches that unused door. "I finally had to conclude that Rosie the organic free-range chicken doesn't really grasp the whole free-range conceit. The space that has been provided to her for that purpose is, I realized, not unlike the typical American front lawn it resembles--it's a kind of ritual space, intended not so much for the use of the local residents as a symbolic offering to the larger community. Seldom if ever stepped upon, the chicken-house lawn is scrupulously maintained nevertheless, to honor an ideal nobody wants to admit has by now become something of a joke, an empty pastoral conceit."

While the industrial organic chicken has a 4sqm space per chicken to run about in according to EU guidelines, it might not actually use it.

If it concerns you, think about buying from places where you can see the chooks running about or consider keeping them yourself. They're like waste disposal units with feathers :)

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Posted

I buy all my eggs and pasta from a local farm who keep chickens. Have done for years.

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Posted

In the end they are all the same.. Eggs.. Same nutritional content, same function. Only the price is different.

Why pay 4 Eur when you can get the same thing for 2.

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Posted

The topic is eggs, so stick to that and not meat..

Like in most places, organic/bio gets you a product of the same nutritional content, for twice the price.

I buy the eggs with an L on the box. And I buy the cheap ones.

Seems I'm not the only one thinking the same thing.

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Posted

Ah, so your argument is "other people think like that, so I must be right".

Makes much more sense.

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Posted

In the end they are all the same.. Eggs.. Same nutritional content, same function. Only the price is different.

Why pay 4 Eur when you can get the same thing for 2.

"One study compared the nutrient content of an average free-range egg to the USDA's nutritional average, and found that levels of fat-soluble vitamins were many times the national average in eggs laid by free-roaming hens. Vitamin D levels topped at four to six times average, while vitamin E levels were triple the norm."

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1523851/freerange_eggs_offer_health_benefits.html?cat=51

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Posted

Let's start an argument about whether or not the world is round or flat - no, that is too easy...OK, how about "is the world made out of cheese". I know 3 hippes who take a little too much LSD, and they say it is made from cheese. Seems I'm not the only one then, so I must be right.

As to this being about eggs, not meat - actually, this thread covers alot of animal welfare themes, so meat is, I am afraid, totally on topic. In a thread about a particular OS on a computer, I am sure some people have mentioned underlying hardware at time, which is equally on or off topic, depending on what point one is trying to make, or perhaps more accurately, what utter gibberish one is writing.

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Posted

I buy all my eggs and pasta from a local farm who keep chickens. Have done for years.

does the pasta grow on trees or is it made by hand by the chickens?

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Posted

Good point OG. I understand the spaghetti is harvested in a sustainable manner:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27ugSKW4-QQ

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Posted

On a slightly more serious note, much of what you eat is subsidised by cheap oil. Not only for the fuel for the tractors but the nitrogen based fertilisers. It is the industrialisation of food production which is leading to the suffering of huge numbers of animals. 

(drags out this Youtube for the umpteenth time, then buggers off outside to finish his permaculture raised bed)

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Posted

To answer your original question, they humaneness goes with the number printing on the egg, meaning organic is indeed more humane than free-range. I'm afraid I don't know the specific numbers, but I know that organic, in addition to getting better feed are required to have slightly more freedom. I buy free range rather than organic because the conditions specified by free range seem the most reasonable to me.

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Posted

I also buy free range usually... if they have L at least... if not I will take L from Bodenhaltung.

On another note, why are eggs here so small? Anybody knows the answer?

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Posted

European Chickens are smaller :D

humaneness goes with the number printing on the egg

If your talking about the little ink stamp on each egg, that just records the vendor,date,time,lot info

in case there is a salmonella outbreak or something, that way they know which eggs maybe affected.

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Posted

I mistrust eggs that are all exactly the same colour and size and have been through a printer.

Only Freilandhaltung non-printed brownish eggs with at least a bit of chickenshit and the odd feather or two stuck to them make it onto my plate, even if it means I have to wait a month for the next farmer's market to stock up.

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Posted

The difference between your farm fresh, free roaming chicken eggs and your aldi/lidl - 99s cent for 24 eggs is night and day. Just compare the basic yolk color, the taste and, as many have pointed out, the nutritional content (which the studies show, of course).

I had a discussion a while back with friends who came over for dinner. They said my chicken tasted funny. The chicken was very fresh, was not bad in any way, shape or form and was roasted to perfection! The difference? They buy the 65 cent per pound, hormone-filled junk and we buy organic. People out there do not really know what chicken actually tastes like. It's pitiful. Blood is not supposed to pour out of the packaging when you open up your steak you just bought. the list is endless.

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Posted

I did once have some excellent (taste) eggs from a Landsmann bio shop which I patronise just because it's the closest shop to where I work. Subsequent visits have yielded eggs that are not of the same taste. Are they ethically produced from happy chickens? I have no idea, however I would reckon that it is often possible to tell the difference between the very cheap eggs and better ones when served boiled and served with toast soldiers. As the don says the eggs must somehow reflect what their creators were fed.

'Tis the problem with living in a big city that we are a long way from having any sort of contact with the people who produce our food and for that, and that only, I could be slightly envious of jeremy living in Holzkirchen ;)

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Posted

On another note, why are eggs here so small? Anybody knows the answer?

Very simply put, comsumer demand has not (yet) pushed supermarkets to force suppliers to provide larger eggs. In the US and UK, people like bigger eggs, and chickens are now selectively bred in an effort to ensure larger eggs, because they currently attract a better price.

Any type of selective breeding for productivity purposes alone is something that should probably be avoided, because time and time and time and time again, it goes completely fucking wrong, and you end up with a load of livestock with osteoporosis or something. Also, it has been suggested that it is more painful and stressful for a chicken to lay a bigger egg, which can lead to more instances of bloodstains on the egg. In my experience, the egg white is "tighter" on small eggs too, does not spread so much in the pan when frying.

I don't really understand the need for jumbo eggs - but in fairness, I don't "bake". If I have the choice of one big egg, or 2 small for my breakfast, I'll go for the 2 small myself. If I am making a truita de patats, then I'll use...as many small eggs as I need to.

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Posted

There's a huge difference between the taste of eggs that are fresh and from free-range chickens (if they really do eat whatever they find out in the yard in addition to their feed) than industrial eggs. I have also read that they have higher nutritional value, especially when it comes to Omega-3s. (I'm dubious about the eggs that have added Omega-3, though, and I won't pay the high cost for them.)

Someone mentioned Michael Pollan earlier. I highly recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma. He has a great profile of a farm in (I think) Vermont that grows everything the old fashioned way. The chickens are free range, but at night they're housed in a kind of covered-wagon-like contraption on wheels. The fences on the farm are moveable, and as the cows are moved around for fresh grass, the chicken wagon is pulled to the field where the cows just were, to eat the bugs out of the cowpats and help fertilize the grass for the cows' next pass through. It's ingenious.

The section on Big Organic is probably the best, though. Summary: though it's probably worth it most of the time to buy organic whole foods, if you can afford it, processed organic foods are probably not more nutritious than other processed foods.

There's a lot about the "true cost" of mass-produced and processed foods, as well.

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