It’s a question we’re getting more and more. What does the pasture raised eggs label mean? How is it different from our Free Range pastured hens? And why aren’t Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs pasture raised?
We wrote a longer blog post about this, a little over a year ago, titled ‘Why We Are Free Range and Not Pasture Raised.‘ But, as the question continues to come up, it may be time for an update on the issue.
Words by: Jesse Laflamme
First of all, we support humane treatment for all farm animals, including hens obviously, and we sincerely hope that people will only buy free range and pastured raised eggs in the future. The Cage Free standard has already been co-opted by factory farms. It is better than the battery cages that still dominate the industry today, but only marginally better, as the hens are essentially confined to larger cages in massive industrial facilities with no outdoor access.
As for the difference between free range and pasture raised eggs, they are both excellent standards; provided that they are certified by a credible 3rd party, such as Certified Humane, as ours are. Beyond that, our firm belief is that the amount of space our hens have is more than sufficient. You can see that in all of the photos of our family farms, where the hens rarely cover more than a small fraction of our substantial pastures.
The much larger space requirement for Pasture Raised actually originates from a British soil management standard defined in the 1940s that was based on rotational grazing needs. In other words, the amount of space per hen was not based on having enough for the hens to be comfortable, but how much you need if you are moving flocks from pasture to pasture.
The idea was to ensure viable grass and soil for other crops or animals after the hens had been on it for a period of time. So the space requirement had nothing to do with animal welfare.
Despite this, it was adopted by the two primary certifiers in the U.S. as the “Pasture Raised” standard. And interestingly, the standard allows for “rotational fencing” meaning that even if they claim 108 sq. ft. per hen, that is the undivided total, not what is available to a hen on any given day.
More space is great. We applaud responsible egg farming at whatever scale. But the more space you use the higher your prices. One only has to look at the price of farmland to know this.
It’s important to not confuse Pasture Raised eggs with Organic eggs either. They are entirely different things. Laying hens, including Pasture Raised hens, do not get their primary source of nutrition from foraging. It comes from their feed, which is either organic, or it’s not. There are many Pasture Raised Eggs that are not organic as they are fed conventional feed that was grown with pesticides and herbicides.
At Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, we don’t see a meaningful difference in animal welfare between these two excellent standards, so we choose to maintain the Free Range standard and sell our Organic eggs for a bit less money. If you prefer to buy Pasture Raised eggs instead, we are absolutely fine with that. Just know that when you choose our Organic, Certified Humane, Free Range Eggs, you are guaranteed that you are getting an egg laid by a hen that has an exceptionally humane existence.