Pasture Fed Chicken Eggs
When you see a field full of hens you instinctively know that it looks natural and if it looks natural it probably is. There is extensive research into the benefit of pastured eggs. We find mother earth news a very interesting source of information on the benefits of natural farming.
There are more nutrients and better flavour in real pasture fed hens— by any measure free-range eggs are superior to standard supermarket eggs.
The pastured egg tests that they carried out are a very interesting read.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS' (MEN) pastured egg nutrient tests. Although this is an American article the results would obviously be similar in the UK as well.
The results are taken from a comparison of pastured egg producers and the commercial industry. Previous tests found that eggs from hens raised on pasture — as compared to the official (USDA United States Department of Agriculture) data for factory-farm eggs — contain:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
- Three times more vitamin E
- Seven times more beta carotene
There is also newer research into vitamin D, something in which many people are lacking. This research is showing that this common vitamin deficiency may be related to much more than just weak bones — from diabetes and cancer to heart disease and multiple sclerosis.
Our bodies can get vitamin D in two ways: when sunlight strikes our skin, or from our diet. In the north of England I think we can fairly say that for much of the year the sun is distinctly absent from our daily lives. We have to rely on our diet for our Vitamin D.
Eggs are one of a small list of foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D. The USDA says supermarket eggs contain an average of 34 International Units per 100 grams. MEN tests of eggs from four pastured farms in Texas, Kansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania found that their eggs contained three to six times as much vitamin D as the typical supermarket eggs. This means two scrambled eggs from pastured hens may give you 63 to 126 percent of the recommended daily intake of 200 IU of vitamin D.
We graze our hens on 16 acres of pastureland in the beautiful rolling Cheshire countryside on the edge of the historic village of Lymm. A strange name I know but thought to be of Celtic origin and means a place of running water. This was probably due to the stream running through its centre. It was also mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 where the name appears as "Lime".
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The hens are free to roam and display their natural behaviours while protected by an electric fence to deter any predators. We are continually moving the fences so that they are always on new areas. As they feed they do what all animals do and fertilise the pasture so when moved on the grass grows even better. We ensure our chickens receive all the essential nutrients in the correct balance by supplemental feeding of a specially formulated feed from the smallholder range of feeds. The natural free range layers pellets help provide all the vitamins, minerals and ingredients for good sized eggs with a natural golden yolk and deep rich taste. There are no growth promoters or artificial yolk colourants, no drugs and no antibiotics in the food. The use of antibiotics in animal food is probably the greatest threat to humanity that has recently arisen as bugs become resistant to the antibiotics. (Read more about this here)
Why do they feed antibiotics as standard to animals? The answer is simple. If you raise animals in intensive farming you have to. These are not natural conditions so they simply would all die of infections. Scary! This is actually a very sad indictment of industrial farming to get cheap prices. There is a very valid reason to pay a bit more for better more natural husbandry of our farm animals.
We use and highly recommend the smallholder range of feed to anyone with backyard chickens. Details of why we use it are below:
We believe that by combining this feed and by pasturing the chickens there isn’t a better more natural egg. In order to complete the natural environment we allow the odd cockerel (not required for our rare and traditional breeds breeding programme) to stay with the laying flocks. While obviously not required for eggs we feel he adds to the overall well being of the flock and definitely provides a watchful eye over the ladies. I have seen a cockerel facing down of a fox while his ladies escaped. He paid the ultimate price but none of his girls were harmed. It is also delightful to watch him dance for the girls or treat them with something he has found. It all adds to a natural environment, which creates a much happier flock and better eggs.
Below is a summary from the Smallholder range website that gives details as to why we like it. I think one of the things that impresses me most is the endorsement by Prince Charles who is an avid organic farmer and runs Highgrove on those principles. It is a fantastic place to visit and I have been inspired by it on a number of occasions. Hidden away and not on the main garden tour is the most impressive chicken house you have ever seen. It is only rivalled by a friend of mine Ian Webb who has what we jokingly call 'The Highgrove North Chicken Palace.' He was also inspired by a visit to the gardens in
The Smallholder range
The Smallholder Range feeds are best suited to birds kept in free range or non-intensive conditions rather than those being reared for intensive or commercial production. The Smallholder Range always ensure that only the highest quality ingredients are used and make every effort to produce the most natural feeds possible
By Royal Appointment
In January 2009 the Smallholder Range was granted the Royal Warrant from HRH The Prince of Wales.
Vegetarian Society Approval
WE DON'T USE animal by-products, fishmeal or gelatine coating on our vitamins. All the feeds in the Smallholder Range are approved by the Vegetarian Society and are free from animal products. The vitamins we use are not covered in the standard pork gelatine coating.
We only use Non GM Ingredients
Only products that are made without genetically modified (GM) ingredients are approved by the Vegetarian Society. As a matter of policy we only use non-GM ingredients in our feeds. The soya and maize we use is identity preserved - grown from non-GM seed. Whilst these crops are not guaranteed, we take every reasonable precaution to minimise the risk of exposure to possible GM presence. We show all our ingredients on our labels.
All our feeds are drug-free, with no artificial or nature identical growth promoters or yolk pigmenters. No other drugs or medicinal additives, such as coccidiostats, anti-biotics are added and we operate a completely drug-free mill. We do not use any nature identical flavours or additives at all, all of the herbs we use are the real thing!
Contains Omega 3 Oils
WE ONLY USE Premium Vegetable Oils.
Animal fats and recovered oils such as chip fat have never been used in our Smallholder feeds.
No Hexane Extracted Ingredients
We DO NOT SELECT ingredients that have been processed using harsh chemical solvents.
Our Non-GM soya is pressed - not harshly extracted with the solvent hexane.