At Drumanilra Organic Farm we include poultry as part of our organic enterprise. At present, we keep a flock of laying hens, for organic egg production. We manage our flock and organic egg production in line with our whole farm ethos. This means working in harmony with nature and the environment, with a strict production regime, and regular inspections.
Firstly, all our birds live outdoors in pens surrounded by electric poultry netting to keep them safe from predators. Secondly, these large pens are on land that has not been treated with chemicals or artificial fertilisers. Thirdly, the hens are great foragers and love to eat grass and roots as well as grub around for worms and insects. This is a favourite source of protein for them. Finally, we supplement their diet with high quality organic feed.
What is the difference between conventional, free-range eggs and organic eggs?
This is a question we are frequently asked:
Conventional Eggs: These are produced in densely stocked hen-houses by birds that never venture outside. The birds feed entirely on a mix of grains that usually include genetically modified crops, and crops grown in intensive monoculture systems. To counteract the effects of densely populated houses, the birds may receive routine antibiotics as a preventative measure. Despite campaigns to end caged production systems in Ireland, they still exist. Although conditions have improved, “enriched cages” still only allow the space of one A4 sheet per bird.
Free Range Eggs: The key difference between conventional and free-range eggs is that they have access to outdoor space and a lower stocking density. Welfare conditions are much better than in conventional systems, but the main component of the diet is the same feed as for mainstream birds.
Organic Eggs: Hens are raised in uncrowded houses with freedom to roam outside at will. They enjoy roomy hen-houses, with almost twice the living space of other hens. They also enjoy foraging outside and receive high quality organic feed which has been grown free from pesticides and fungicides, synthetic fertilisers and are GM free. Antibiotics are not used in organic egg production.
Are organic eggs better than other eggs?
We certainly believe that they are!
For us, the quality of eggs from small flocks of free-ranging birds like ours is one of the strongest arguments for organic and free-range. You will notice that the shells are tough, the whites are strong and hold together when the egg is cracked. You will also see that the yolks are a bright, bright yellow. They are instantly recognisable as a different product to the eggs of intensively cage-reared birds.
In addition, studies show a striking difference between eggs produced from hens with access to pasture and those produced by grain-fed hens raised in cages. Organic eggs can have three times the Omega – 3 fatty acids than those produced by their caged counterparts. They have also been shown to have 40% more Vitamin A and more than twice the vitamin E of conventional eggs.
Perhaps most importantly, our hens enjoy a much healthier life as they produce organic eggs, roaming about the hillside on the shores of Lough Key.
We believe that if you try them once, you will find it hard to go back!
You can read more about the difference between different poultry and egg production systems here.