Thursday, July 7, 2011
Actually I should have posed the eggs with the Tweeb, since she actually does squawk, but she's also a fussbudget and got up and stalked off, so Noodle had to be the hen in this picture...
Anyway: I've been buying our eggs from the nearby boerenboerderij, because they come from organically-fed, free-range chickens. Even at €0.20 each, they're still substantially less than the same eggs at the supermarket. I don't think they actually taste any better (or maybe I'm too much of a Luddite) but it does make me feel a little better not to be buying scharreleiren.
Eggs are rated from 0-4. The higher the number, the more confined the chicken. The number is stamped on the egg itself, along with a country-of-origin (NL usually), a 5-digit code that corresponds to the farm it came from, and a 2-digit code that corresponds to which chicken (or at least, which part of the farm) laid it. So a 0-rated egg comes from those chickens you see scratching happily in the garden on all of the egg commercials, while a 4-rated egg comes from a box-chicken in one of those massive factory farms that animal welfare activists are always protesting. Even if you don't give a rat's @$$ about chicken welfare, chickens are pretty dirty birds, and having so many side by side is like putting a shit-factory next to your eggs, so you're braver than I am if you like buying eggs from such a source.
Most eggs in the Netherlands are rated a 2--scharreleiren, meaning that the chickens have some room to roam, but are still kept closely confined. So closely, in fact, that sometimes they are de-beaked to prevent them from injuring each other when they fight. I'm sure the chickens are, if not okay, not too badly disrupted by the process, but even so--it's kind of squicky to think about. A 1-rating means that they are afforded at least some outdoor time on a regular basis, but really, if you're concerned about poultry welfare, a 0 is the best way to go.
In the EU, the European Commission (very good website!) has a set of guidelines which govern all organic produce produced in the member states. For something to be called "organic", it must at the very least comply with the EC rules, and some companies and countries have even more stringent guidelines. Although the rules have been in place since 1992, the EC only mandated that a standard logo must be phased in starting last year...at least their priorities are straight?
For us, buying meat, dairy, and egg products from humanely-treated animals is more about a philosophy than food snobbery. Ever since we got Noodle, Karel has been paying more attention to where his food comes from, and he insists on buying meat with the "puur en eerlijk" (pure and fair--in this case, humanely-treated) label on it. If I had my way entirely, he'd be a vegetarian right with me, but I can live with this compromise ;-)