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What makes a good egg?

A guest blog, by our Sustainability Officer, Jo Bodimeade

You’re all good eggs!

A cracking crew. The friendliest, nicest, most hilarious flock of humans that ever did grace a field! And you’ve helped make Shambala one of the most sustainable festivals in Europe. So much so, that we can now work on how to become a more regenerative festival, i.e. ‘’beyond ‘sustainable’ (which is sort of, possibly an impossible word anyway, realistically). You can read all about that, here.

We’ve already kicked dairy milk from our hot drinks onsite, replacing them with the most ethical and sustainable plant milks available. We even source all our oat milk from just up the road, at Wild & Furrow – more on that here, oat-milk lovers!

But did you know where we get our eggs?

All the eggs served up at Shambala are supplied by Anne-The-Egg-Lady, at Clipston Farm, in spitting distance of the festival. We put all our eggs in one lovely, green, spacious and welfare-y basket/field. Anne is even planning on delivering them by horse and cart this year – keep an eye out for her!  

Find out more about Anne, and her seriously free range feathered friends, in this video:

For us, eggs are an extremely important issue to crack.

Whether you’re an animal welfare warrior, or specifically concerned about the quality of the food you’re consuming, the origin of eggs (and the vastly different welfare standards out there) aren’t exactly straight forward – and sometimes, the consumer facing labelling is downright misleading.

First, some eggy facts!

The UK consumes over 12 billion eggs a year (source).

61.5% are ‘free range’ – The name is reassuring, but the reality isn’t so rosy. The definition of ‘free range’ isn’t quite what you may expect. Flocks of up to 16,000 are squished into large barns with 9 hens per squara metre – and outside space they may never see. As such, beak trimming with infra-red is routine to stop pecking, and antibiotics and GMO food are prevalent.

35% are caged – Battery cages were prohibited by the EU in 2012, but ‘enriched’ or ‘furnished’ cages are still legal. There are up to 17 birds per square metre, no limit on the flock size and beak-trimming is routine to avoid injury and disease. Thankfully, some retailers no longer stock eggs from caged hens.

2% barn – like ‘free-range’, raised in large overcrowded flocks indoors but with no access to outdoor space at all.

1.5% organic – Flocks are only up to 3,000 birds. There are a maximum of 6 hens per m² indoors and each hen has at least 4m² of space outdoors. They are allowed out from 12 weeks old and are treated pretty well!

So the gold standard for animal welfare is definitely organic. However, gaining an organic certification is a time-consuming, highly-administrative and costly process and for small farms – so it might not be worth it for them.

For Anne at Clipston, her chickens are beyond free-range with a brood of 500 over 2 acres, roaming free (sometimes indoors) and laying happy, healthy, non-antibiotic-treated eggs.

So although we would always recommend organic instead of lower-welfare, GMO-fed free-range eggs from supermarkets – we also support small farmers who are supplying very-very-properly-and-actually-free-range-eggs.

What to doooo?

  • If you’re buying eggs for an omelette this weekend, have a quick search for local free-range eggs from a nearby farm – most likely available from local, independent, farm-y, health-vibe type shops. Check the source, ask questions, find out if the chickens are actually happy and go for it! Avoiding big, main-stream brands avoids big, gritty, low-welfare barns and antibiotics! 
  • If you’re a Trader, do the same! But if you need to order many, try to go direct to local farms, call up and ask some questions. Or order mindfully online. Ocado does 12 organic eggs for similar prices: organic £3.85 – £5.75 and free range £2.80 – £3.95.
  • And to conclude: 🚫 avoid caged / barn eggs at all costs.

Big love x