Over the Bank Holiday, I was fortunate to visit my “egg lady’s” farm. Nothing to do with fertility, but I have been getting deliveries of free-range eggs from Fiona Belson for the last couple of years, and I have often wanted to see her hens for myself.
Fiona, and her husband, Seth, own a small-holding in Hertfordshire where they have 65 hens. On arrival Fiona and her children greeted me and I couldn’t help noticing how bright-eyed they all were having spent most of their day outdoors as compared to my children who had spent much of the morning on their phones!
Free-range eggs are produced from birds that are permitted outdoors, as opposed to battery birds that are reared in cages. Fiona’s hens are allowed to roam widely in their large outdoor area (which has grass, trees and bare soil) and do not experience the terrible suffering that caged birds do. They are able to behave as they would in nature. For example, hens like to dig out pits in the dirt for scratching and at the Belson farm there is plenty of space for them to do this. There is also an indoor area for them with plenty of exits so they have easy and continuous access to outside. The entire area is surrounded by fencing to keep them safe, and there’s plenty of opportunity for interacting with the other hens and with humans.
Free-range birds may be happier but it is the quality of what they eat that makes a difference to the quality of the egg. Fiona’s hens are able to eat grass and clover and to forage for plants and insects (their natural food). The hens are not treated with hormones and chemicals are not used in the pasture where they graze. Free-range eggs may contain more vitamin E, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids than conventional eggs. Eggs from hens that spend more time in the sun may contain more vitamin D.
I love cooking with and eating the eggs from Fiona’s farm. They come in slightly different sizes, which feels more natural, after all, small hens lay smaller eggs and larger eggs often produce larger ones. Supermarkets often waste many eggs in order to get them all of uniform size. The eggs always taste so fresh and delicious. Priced at £3 for a dozen eggs delivered to the door they are certainly good value for money. For further information, please check out their website www.happylands.co.uk and if you are interested in trying the eggs, please do get in touch with Fiona on (07778) 021504.
 Karsten, H., Patterson, P., Stout, R., & Crews, G. (2010). Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 25(1), 45-54. doi:10.1017/S1742170509990214