Last year the Happy Egg Co asked us to review their new range of Quiches. We gratefully accepted and wrote up a review with our honest opinions of the products – something we do on a weekly basis. Due to a damning Sky report in 2010 the Happy Egg Co have come under fire ever since and it has ricocheted onto this Blog with some people leaving some rather vicious comments. When the comments started being aimed at me rather than the company I got in touch asking if there was a specific place to point people to for the correct information about the whole debacle. To my surprise the Happy Egg Co invited us to a farm to see the chickens, conditions and practices for ourselves. Now before the cynics start I had a choice out of a few farms, they didn’t just invite us to a “flagship” farm! We had already planned a weekend at the in laws so chose a farm in Hertfordshire to visit whilst we were there.
When we arrived at the farm I was quite excited to see so many chickens – I really don’t know what I expected! We drove up the long drive way and we were greeted by the Farmer, representatives from the Happy Egg Co and their PR. We suited up in some rather fetching green boiler suits to protect the chickens from our germs and the boys were given some really cute wellies to put on. The Farmer, JP, gave us a quick run down on the size of his farm and the strict rules that they have to follow to stay within certain guidelines for free range and the importance of chicken welfare.
It was explained that most of the chickens are hand reared on the farm and that by the time they are 16 weeks they are still no where near big enough to fill the space allowance that each chicken gets. At 16 weeks they are moved into a self sustaining enclosure which has been thoroughly cleaned ready for them. They stay in that enclosure until they are 72 weeks old. After this the enclosure is moved and cleaned to allow the enclosure and its surroundings to be a top standard for the next lot of chickens. I am not naive and know that when the hens have finished laying their eggs they go off to slaughter and JP also explained that no part of the chicken is wasted. Now here I should write – I am not a vegetarian. I am a meat eater and well informed about where and how the meat ends up on my plate. Anyway back to the visit.
We were then taken on a guided tour of the farm and got up close and personal with the chickens who were all extremely friendly and appeared to like human company. JP explained everything about their housing and how the doors are opened first thing in the morning and then shut when the sun goes down to protect them from foxes and the like. The chickens are provided with wooden structures and dirt baths as well as food and water on tap. JP explained that chickens preferred murky weather to sun because of the risk of sky predators that can’t be seen in the bright sun so a lot of the chickens had chosen to stay inside their house.
Spud and Spike both loved the chickens and Spud was looking everywhere for eggs. He was so excited about the prospect of an eggy treasure hunt that he listened to every word that JP had to say about the farm. He also did his usual in chatting up all the ladies that were with us. JP took Spud into the Egg collecting bit and let him press all the buttons to start the conveyor belt which bought out hundreds of eggs! JP explained everything about eggs and it was really interesting to know about the insides and how all eggs should be point down to ensure the air sack doesn’t move and affect the quality.
None of the eggs collected on Happy Egg Co farms are wasted and any that aren’t deemed good enough to make it into the egg boxes are still used for other egg products. There is nothing wrong with the eggs they are just not pretty enough and the Happy Egg Co only sell the best. We were then shown the inside of the hen house which at first overwhelmed me with the sheer amount of chickens. I was a bit taken aback to but then was reminded that these chickens chose to stay inside. There were plenty of levels so that they could have their own space and so many food and water bowls for them to help themselves to. We saw the nesting box which was spacious and really quite cleverly designed with astroturf to keep the eggs clean and an angle to ensure the eggs roll down onto the conveyor belt.
The hen house is regularly checked by farm hands for eggs and any problems with the chickens so overall the whole of the surroundings were in fabulous condition. The hens oozed health. Their feathers were so soft and lovely and their eyes bright. They were so friendly and even gave Spud a little peck. He wasn’t best pleased about it because it scared him but he soon decided that it was worth it for the egg collecting adventure.
Now I did of course ask about the farm that appeared in the report on Sky and was informed that it was a farm on the edge of a hill in Scotland where there had been an awful lot of rain making the conditions wet and muddy. JP mentioned that the report was very much out of context and when I did a bit of digging myself I found that the RSPCA even considered legal action for that very reason. (see this link) Every Happy Egg Co farm is checked regularly by a team that inspect every aspect of the farm and it’s practices. The Happy Egg Co farms exceed standards set by the RSPCA Freedom Food Act and have won a Good Egg Award from Compassion in World Farming for their welfare standards. The report was conducted by VIVA (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals) so was extremely biased and misled viewers by not providing the full facts.
We went for a long walk around the farm and saw the whole layout from a distance. It was a lovely view and topped off a fab tour. We had a great time at the Happy Egg Co farm and I’d like to thank them for inviting us. It certainly put our minds at rest about everything and confident that the Happy Egg Co really do put the welfare of their chickens before anything else. Spud fell asleep within 5 minutes of leaving the farm which is always a sign of a good day and he was talking about eggs and chickens for weeks afterwards. Whenever he sees a Happy Egg Co box he gets really excited and demands eggs. The funny thing is, he doesn’t even like egg!