As a keen baker and cook I think I would be horrified if I counted up the amount of eggs I use in a year, I know it would be 100's, if you think about it, nearly everything we bake has eggs in it in some form, it may be the whole eggs in cakes, the yolks for a sabayon, or just the white's for a meringue, but do we ever stop to think about where our eggs come from, the quality of the eggs, or the quality of life the chicken had that laid the egg, or is it just down to cost! Like anything, don't we get what we pay for and isn't it better to pay a little extra for an egg that has been laid by a healthy chicken and will be of an assured quality.
But, how on earth do we find out what quality of eggs we are buying, well I decided to do a little research and found the following information on the Freedom Food website.
The site says that on average we eat an estimated 186 eggs each a year, in a household like ours where everything is baked and cooked from fresh this number must be much higher, so how do I know which eggs to buy.
Freedom Food advises that all boxes of eggs in this country must have a method of production clearly stated for the consumer to see, this is shown by a number on the egg box, from 0 to 3, this should show you if the eggs were laid by chicken's in cages, a barn, free-range or organic, but this is where it gets a little confusing, what do these terms all mean.
0 = organic, hen's are raised in a free-range environment, but soil health and biodiversity is also involved.
1 = free-range, similar to barn kept chickens, but they have pop holes so the chickens can go outside, they have shade, shelter and the EU have legislation with regards to stocking density, 2500 hens per hectare, the RSPC requires that is should be only 2000 birds per hectare.
2 = barn, hen's can roam freely inside, they can roost on perches, have space to stretch their wings, they have nest boxes and floor litter to scratch in.
3 = caged, conventional cages are made out of thin wire with a sloping mess floor, these are normally stacked up high and they measure about 50 x 55cm and houses five birds. There are EU legislations, but there are many welfare problems concerning the birds, damaged feet/claws, fragile bones, broken bones, frustration and aggression, so not a great life.
So, if your box of eggs isn't labelled with 'free-range' or 'barn', then they are more than likely to of been laid by caged birds.
Many of us think that by just seeing the British lion stamp on our eggs, this automatically means the eggs are of a good quality or from free-range hen's, but I am afraid that this is not the case, the British lion mark only guarantees that the eggs are British-laid and have been vaccinated against salmonella, this does also however apply to caged hen's as well and therefore is no guarantee of the chickens health or quality of life!
So next time you crack an egg to bake something yummy, please give a little thought to where the egg has come from and the quality of life the chicken may of had, we can all do our little bit.
If you need anymore information, not just on eggs but about any other Freedom Food, please check out their website, there is also some great recipes on there, so well worth a look.
So here is a gorgeous recipe which sums up Summer and of course uses eggs!
3 oz castor sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 to 1/2 oz lavender flowers (I use a 1/4oz but it will depend on the strength of your lavender and please make sure it is culinary lavender that you are using)
1/2 pint milk
4 egg yolks
and another 2 oz. castor sugar
1/2 pint double cream
In a saucepan dissolve 3 oz of castor sugar in the 2 tablespoons of water, with the lavender flowers, and then cook to a caramel. Add the milk to this, then stir until caramel dissolves into the milk. Leave to infuse for 1/2 hour or so.
Meanwhile, in a mixer or with a hand whisk, whisk the egg yolks with castor sugar until thick and creamy, then strain the lavender milk onto this. Then put it all back into the saucepan and heat slowly, to make a custard which will coat back of wooden spoon - don't let it boil.
Leave to cool.
Whip double cream lightly, then fold into the cold custard. Put into a suitable container and freeze.