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All about nomadic pasture raised hens and their eggs...

What is a pasture raised hen?

These are hens that are kept very similar in a way to how the meat chickens we sell are grown, with the main benefits being a fresh supply of natural forage as they are regularly moved, and to minimise any disease buildup on the land. So both meat broiler chickens and hens follow a very similar principle, the main difference with the hens, is that they are adults, as opposed to chicks growing into adult chickens. So a hen's diet is often of a little higher nutritional demand, especially once they are laying eggs consistently.

pasture raised hens outside their caravan
Hens foraging around their parked house

The hens are also kept on a slightly different system to meat chickens, where instead of the large moveable polytunnels, they have a house similar to a caravan, that is transported over the farm with a large 100m circumference electric fence that surrounds it. This nomadic living style of the hens is arguably better than how the meat chickens are kept, they have a greater area to forage in during the day, and where the pen can move over the farm is more flexible. Just like mimicking the wild flocks of birds that would land in different areas every day.

How are the eggs different?

Eggs are a valuable source of protein, and the quality is massively affected by how the hens are kept. Predominantly the yolk, which is where if a chick were to have grown in the egg, would be where it gets its first source of energy just prior to and after hatching. The yolk is therefore full of key nutrients such as Vitamin A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, and B12. The hens varied natural diet directly from the pasture means the yolk is not short of any of these key vitamins where they may be slightly lacking in say a barn-kept hens egg.

pasture raised egg tray
Pasture raised eggs ready for grading

Pasture raised hens have the best possible opportunity to produce nutritionally complete eggs. To produce an ideal egg, the hen should be healthy and fit herself, so just like any animal, any deficiencies beginning to arise, they will crave the food they need to balance its body, and regular moves over the land gives them the ability to stay healthy and find what they need naturally. A healthy hen means a healthier egg.

When a hen has limited options for the feed they eat, they will suffer first, and the eggs will also then begin to drop in quality. This is not something we would like to sell, for the low welfare not only is against our morals, but also sets a precedent for low quality to follow.

In short, healthier hens make better eggs which is healthier for us to eat.

Free Range compared to Pasture Raised

The terms pasture raised and free range do overlap somewhat, in fact, the eggs we sell have the stamp classification that puts them as free range. The number 1 on the producer code, stamped on each egg tells you this egg was from a hen in a free-range system where they had access to the outdoors for a minimum of 8 hours a day.

Unfortunately, for a large number of free range hens, this can mean access to a very small outdoor area, which would therefore almost certainly offer very little benefit in terms of interaction with natural habitat.

One big advantage of a hens on this travelling system is their constant access to fresh pastures, this improves their diet and welfare dramatically as new pasture offers varied nutrients alongside new and interesting areas to forage through.

This is why, most importantly, we offer full traceability with the pasture raised title, where you can see that the hens have access to the outdoors during all of their waking hours, and that they are on regularly fresh green grass. This shows you what the meaning of the title means to us. Titles aren't as important where transparency of production is concerned, visuals from the actual farm allow you to see your food without titles, and buy purely on if you like the quality and how it's made.

outdoor hens on grass
Curious hens on Redwoods Farms pastures

The challenges of staying outdoors during bird flu

Bird flu restrictions in the UK is a particularly hard challenge for farmers looking to keep their birds farmed as close to nature as possible. Some rules imposed mean that there must be a sufficient barrier to stop any chickens coming into contact with wild birds. And any risk of droppings from wild birds must not be able to fall into an area where domesticated birds are kept. This means after 6 weeks of bird flu restrictions, the free range title may no longer be used for eggs or chicken meat alike. For the majority of farmers, the easiest solution is to house their chickens indoors in barns.

However, at Redwoods Farm, the hens that lay the eggs we source are able to be kept still on pasture in a similar system to how the meat chickens are kept. This means they still have access to grass like normal, with plenty of sunlight through the polytunnel roof. To ensure they are always on fresh grass, they are still moved 2-3 times a week based on the condition of the pasture.

A note on pullet eggs...

Pullets are young hens, which lay smaller eggs, and unfortunately, sometimes these are considered a little too small or oddly shaped that they are wasted and not sold as supermarkets require more uniform and consistent eggs for their customers. However, as we buy directly from the farm and grade the eggs for ourselves, we offer a lower net-weight mixed-sized box that includes pullet sized eggs. Pullet eggs taste great and have a higher yolk-to-white ratio, however, they are not always available, as there aren't always pullets at the farm (they only lay these smaller eggs for 4 weeks or so). If it's the right time of year, you can buy the pullet eggs here. Although some chefs love to use small pullet eggs for their unique qualities, we sell the standard 380g minimum net weight mix of pasture raised eggs here.

mixed sized pullet eggs
Pasture raised pullet eggs sold alongside our regular eggs

All in all, we are happy to offer such a higher welfare product that fits our values perfectly, we deliver the eggs nationwide via courier in reinforced packaging to reduce the risk of breakages. As always, if you have questions about our egg-related services just contact us here.


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