In my home, sunny work free Sundays spell adventure day. Spontaneous as they are, unspoken rules forged over thirty plus years of marriage hold them in place. Content to let my husband choose our destination is pivotal. He drives, I sit back and take it in – the element of surprise far out weighs inclusion in our destination. Eighty kilometers out of Vancouver we exit the highway at Chilliwack, knowing in my heart a half hour diversion to walk a few blocks of classic car show has nothing to do with our destination.
Back at the car, he spills the beans, “we’re going to Bridal Falls” – setting true adventure day in motion. Aside from spontaneous origin and vague destination, adventure parameters are strict – avoid main highways, absolutely no fast food, stop as often as we like. Yale Road meandered past corn, raspberry and blueberry fields, dotted with dairy farms and a RCMP vehicle guarding the demise of a road kill deer. Stopping at a garden shop netted an Echinecia plant. A kilometer or so down the road, a field of chickens found us circling back for a closer look.
In all my life, despite rumors of free range chickens, I’ve never seen anything like it. Hundreds, likely thousands of happy chickens roaming the greenest of fields. Without exception, every last one the County Fair blue ribbon epitome of poultry perfection. Snapping photos from afar, we heard a neighbour across the street call out “do you know how many people stop and take pictures of these chickens?” A brief exchange of pleasantries revealed eggs were for sale, “they’re really good, just go knock on the door”. Moments later we’re knocking, dog is yapping and Harvey calls out from an upstairs window “I’ll be right down”. Harvey’s hens are certified organic – we buy 2 flats of 30 for $25. Sixty eggs! No worries, they’re delicious.
A few kilometers later we cross the highway at Bridal Falls. “It has to be over 20 years since we stopped here, how old were the kids, do you remember this steep hike?”.
My “wish list” the other day included one hoping consumers learned the difference between “free run” and “free range” eggs. I thought it unfair to leave that dangling. We pay premium prices for free run, free range, and organic. I laughed out loud when the egg question was explained.
In Canada, “free run” chickens are still confined to massive barns, never see the light of day, and are given nesting boxes to lay their eggs. To claim “free range” producers have to let the hens have access to outside the barn once a day. To be clear; we’re not talking flinging open the barn doors onto a grassy meadow – all they have to do is provide an “opening” for a prescribed amount of time.
Organic chicken deserves a serious ponder as well. Any illusions to a “Sunnybrook” farm existence should immediately be tossed in the compost bin. Poultry is certified “organic” as long as it wasn’t feed antibiotics or animal by-products. Commercial producers can still pack thousands of birds into airless barns; still force feed them round the clock. I guarantee, commercial organic chickens have never seen the light of day.
There is absolutely no difference in the nutritional content of eggs. Free run, range, or plain old eggs; it’s all the same. Falling for slick marketing ploys designed to feed on social conscience, only puts egg on your face. Organic chicken, free from antibiotics is not a bad idea; provided you suspend romantic notions of birds blissfully scratching around a grassy field.
Stop and think before you buy. Shop at farmers markets if you want eggs laid by happy chickens. Otherwise, save your money and demand unregulated marketing nonsense stops.There truly is no end to the ingenuity of mankind. Marketing is alive and well; human nature dictates no shortage of those willing to line up for “snake oil”.