In Britain, a free range egg is one laid by a hen that lives its life scrabbling about on grass. In other words, it is ‘free to range’.
Chickens that are raised in a barn are not free range, of course. They spend their lives in barns. In the worst cases they are packed so tightly that they can do little more than shuffle in place. We know the damage this does because hens who live like that can suffer from underdeveloped leg muscles so that they can hardly walk.
Now, for the past four months, all free range hens have been confined to barns to combat a nationwide outbreak of avian flu.
And from Monday, eggs sold in shops in Britain will have to carry a sticker or label saying they are barn eggs.
Four months is apparently, the cut-off point between barn and free range.
So on the 20 March 2022, they will be free range. And on the 21 March they will be barn hens. And that is why the title of this post is ‘When’ rather than ‘What’ is a free range egg.
Lots of things have cut-off points. They enable humans to manage the world without having to negotiate everything every time. But it is a bit ludicrous, do you not think, to call an egg one thing and not another when it is not a matter of the egg producer cramming hens in a barn, but of Government policy to deal with a disease outbreak?
What will the label say, I wonder?