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Why the Move to Free Range?

Words by: Tom Piper

Perhaps you have noticed that our packages now say “Free Range” instead of “Cage Free” on them? And you have wondered, why the change? And what’s the difference?

Unfortunately, definitions for humane animal care can be a little confusing, even to us at times. But here’s a simplified guide:

Bad: Caged Eggs. Unless they say otherwise, chances are the eggs you eat are caged (still 90% in the U.S.). These are horrific both for hens and for people, and should be banned, as they have been in Europe.

Better: Cage Free. This is an improvement for certain. But some former caged producers are simply converting their “farms” (i.e. egg factories) to “cage free” by meeting the bare minimum of the standard. In no way do these facilities resemble farms as they still pack tens of thousands of birds together in small confined spaces (including big cages, believe it or not) and feeding the hens antibiotics to ward off the inevitable disease spreading. So “Cage Free” isn’t quite as humane or healthy as it should be in many cases.

Better Still: Free Range. This means hens do have some access to the outdoors. It may not be easy to find the door, and the outdoors may not mean access to anything more than a small concrete porch, but its another step in the right direction.

Best: Certified Humane Free Range, which is what all Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs are. That means that the independent, non-profit, widely respected Humane Farm Animal Care organization has audited our operation to certify that we meet their robust standard for free range. That means real access to grass, food and water when the hens want it, ability for them to engage in natural behaviors like roosting, dust bathing being social with each other, and much more.

Becoming 100% Certified Humane Free Range is the completion of a path we have been on for a number of years and we were proud to recently get 100% of our small family farmer partners to achieve every element of this rigorous standard. That’s why we made the name change.

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