It’s a very good question, and many people imagine when they see it on a supermarket label, that free range means that the animals truly have a free range in a natural environment. Sadly in many cases this simply isn’t true.
The Law on Free-range
Legislation about what can be called free range is woolly to say the least, so that in effect, producers are free to make their own decisions about what constitutes free range. You can see that in the ever decreasing price of free-range eggs at the supermarket. While the trustworthy producers’ egg prices go up (as animal feed prices and wage costs rise…) how can supermarkets have reached their lowest ever price ever…? One can only assume that the difference is paid by the chickens themselves.
Box Local Free-range
Our eggs are laid by chickens that really do have the run of the place. They have a safe warm place to spend the night (and the day if it’s miserable) and are left to roam during the day. They take up a lot of land, and do eat a fair amount of food in order to be happy and lay well, so their eggs come at a price. We also feel pretty good about the fact that the profit made by Oakland’s college (who supply our eggs) goes back into the college.
The same goes for our meat – our pork and beef comes from Brookfield Farm (a real farm, not a made up name a la Tesco and Marks and Spencers) where the animals are the first priority. The pigs and cows have ample space to roam and safe housing to keep them warm and dry when needed. Customers of their shop in Aston walk past the fields where the animals are kept, and can see for themselves how content the animals truly are. Their feed has no unnecessary antibiotics (which are administered to some animals living in less than adequate surroundings to prevent illn). Nor does it contain growth promoters (or hormones) given to animals to get them up to weight quicker and more economically. The animals live and grow at their own pace and in their own space, and not only does this make for happy animals, but it makes for very tasty meat.
Our pasture reared lamb comes from Blixes Farm in Essex, who also run the abbatoir where all our meat is processed. Just like Brookfield they are also a retail butcher so they see their satisfied customers every day, and rely on the quality of their own meat for their reputation. Brookfield have worked with them for many years and both share the same passion for the welfare of their animals aswell as the satisfaction of their customers.
If any of you would like to come and see any of the farms we work with I would gladly take you there and you can see for yourselves. I’m not sure how many supermarkets could honestly say the same…