I love eggs, me. What I don’t love is factory farming of any kind however, and battery hen farming is particularly vile. I visited a battery shed once – brrrrrrrr.
When I was little, growing up in the country, we were fortunate to be able to buy our eggs directly from relatives who had a small farm with a few free-range happy chickens running around in the yard. (I also got fleas from playing in the hen-house, but that’s another tale to be told another time). As an adult I’ve always tried to purchase free-range eggs but I admit to occasionally letting my standards slip when it’s a choice between battery eggs or no eggs at all. Here in Barcelona it can be tricky – there still aren’t many free-range producers (In 2008 97% of Spanish eggs were from battery hens, vs 1.2% barn-raised and 1.8% free range. Compare this to 58.3% / 3.8% / 37.9% respectively in the UK)* and only a few of the bigger supermarkets seem to stock free-range.
It’s not just an animal welfare issue, it’s a public health issue too: battery eggs are associated with much higher incidences of salmonella and – presumably because of the appalling conditions in which most chickens are kept – Spain has the worst record on salmonella in Europe:
The 2008 National Control Programme showed that just one per cent of flocks in the UK tested positive for salmonella enteriditis and salmonella typhimurium. The figure for all serovars (variations of the salmonella virus) was 1.25 per cent. The comparative figures for Spain were 15.6 per cent and 34.9 per cent. In Poland the equivalent percentages were 10.6 and 12.5, in France 3.2 and 6.1, in Germany 2.7 and 3.5 and in the Netherlands 2.6 and 2.6. (European Centre for Disease Prevention)
Why Spain is so far behind the rest of Europe in animal welfare AND food safety standards is a whole ‘nother discussion, so back to my search for eggs laid by happy chickens: FINALLY I found a stall in the Santa Caterina Market that sometimes has free range – and organic – eggs from a supplier in Andalucia.
Yes – they are free-range AND organic (ecologica)!
The very nice lady at the egg stall (hueveria Gomez-Maldonado, Stall number 19 in the Santa Caterina Market, only open mornings) explained that it’s a tricky situation for retailers: to buy free-range eggs from providers is more expensive than buying battery, and because the demand is low from customers they can’t justify buying in bulk to get a discount. As they buy at a high price they subsequently have to retail them at a high price, which keeps the demand low. There just doesn’t seem to have been the same awareness/campaigning here to persuade people to *ask* for free-range or to pay that bit extra.
This stall has been selling free-range for several years now – they said it took a while to find a reliable supplier which is why they are currently sticking with the one they have in Andalucia. Although – according to an old article in Barcelona Metropolitan – there is a free-range producer in the Vallès Oriental called El Rull Can Maspons she hadn’t heard of it and I haven’t been able to find any reference to it on-line, but she did say that they would prefer to buy from local Catalan producers if they could find a reliable good quality source.
If you know anywhere else in town that sells free-range eggs please leave a comment letting me know!
For more about battery farming and why it is a bad thing, check out this site from Wesleyan university in the US: http://www.wesleyan.edu/wsa/warn/eon/index.html
*IEC’s International Egg Market Annual Review
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Related post: Eggs Update!