A long while back before the election some councillors received emails about cage eggs and whether the council used them - see here - well I responded to those enquiries but haven't got around to a blog with the answer - well the District Council do use cage-free eggs - 'farm assured' eggs.
I asked if this was the Red Tractor scheme, run by Assured Food Standards. If so the scheme claims to promote good farming practices but in reality offers little assurance to consumers beyond simple compliance with minimum legal requirements. Indeed many so-called barn eggs are from overcrowded and poor conditions. Correction added - the Red Tractor Scheme does not cover eggs.
Apparently all the eggs we use also have the Lion Mark - important perhaps for food safety but guarantees nothing about the conditions in which the eggs were laid.
So which eggs to buy - well as the Poultry Pages say: "It's really rather simple, organic eggs are best, free range second followed by barn eggs. Please, vote with your purse and don't buy eggs from caged birds. However, if you want eggs from hens kept as you would like them to be, you have two real options. (1) Keep your own hens - this way you know their conditions. (2) Buy off small suppliers at the farm gate who are happy to show you their hens. Just up the road from us we can buy free range eggs at a price around or even lower than the supermarket. We know they're free range because the small flock are wandering around."
See more about the conditions of each method at Compassion in World Farming here. Having said that organic standards do vary - the Soil Association organic standards are much higher - see here.
Lastly organic eggs accounted for 4.5% of all eggs sold by volume – and 8% by value. During 2009, organic egg production fell, in response to falling demand. It is perhaps not surprising in a recession but disappointing - often there is a noticeable taste difference between between organic and barn eggs - having said that half my eggs come from various neighbours but am still tempted to have chickens here....
Anyway on final point I was sent a link regarding Nottingham Hospital in the Farmers Weekly - see here - they are hoping to save a whopping £6m a year by having fresh and locally sourced ingredients. I will be following how Defra now look at that project with the new government.