- Why aren’t all of your eggs free-run?
- What happens to male chicks in your egg laying operation?
- What causes blood spots in eggs?
- Why do your eggs have more blood spots than the white eggs I generally buy?
- What is the source of Omega-3 in your eggs?
- Are your laying hens debeaked?
- Why do your eggs occasionally taste fishy?
Q. Why aren’t all of your eggs free-run?
While our Green Valley branded eggs are free-run, Rowe Farms eggs are from hens raised in an enhanced housing system where small social groups of 15-17 birds are housed with perches, dust baths, scratch pads and nests to lay their eggs in. This system was developed in Europe and offers improved bird welfare as opposed to conventional battery cages.
One challenge with free-run systems is that birds have a social "pecking" order and can be very aggressive. In large groups you will often find birds with all their feathers ... and some birds with very few. An aggressive "bullying" behaviour develops and some birds are often singled out and picked on when they are free to roam in large barns. An enhanced housing system with small groups of birds seems to eliminate this aggressive "pecking" behaviour and the birds live more harmoniously despite having less freedom to roam.
Q. What happens to male chicks in your egg laying operation?
All of the chicks supplied to both egg laying, and broiler chicken operations are provided by CFIA approved and monitored hatcheries. As a company, we are far too small to impact these operations and we focus our efforts on the welfare of the birds once they arrive on our farms. At this time there is no commercial value for male laying hens and they are commonly used in pet food. Again, Rowe Farms does not have any visibility to this operation. For more detailed information on how these facilities operate, we recommend contacting the CFIA.
Q. What causes blood spots in eggs?
Blood spots occur when blood or a bit of tissue is released along with a yolk. Each developing yolk in a hen's ovary is enclosed in a sack containing blood vessels that supply yolk building substances. When the yolk is mature, it is normally released from the only area of the yolk sac, called the "stigma" or "suture line", that is free of blood vessels. Occasionally, the yolk sac ruptures at some other point, causing blood vessels to break and blood to appear on the yolk or in the white. As an egg ages, the blood spot becomes paler, so a bright blood spot is a sign that the egg is fresh.
Blood spots occur in less than one percent of all eggs laid. They may appear in a pullet's first few eggs, but are more likely to occur as hens get older. Blood spots may be triggered by too little vitamin A in a hen's diet, or they may be hereditary - if you hatch replacement pullets from a hen that characteristically lays spotted eggs, your new flock will likely do the same. It is safe for humans to eat eggs with blood spots.
Q. Why do your eggs have more blood spots than the white eggs I generally buy?
Eggs are checked using a process called candling where they are passed over a strong light to identify any imperfections inside the egg. Any eggs with blood spots are usually removed but Rowe Farms eggs are brown and are more difficult than white eggs to examine by candling. Blood spots are not harmful to humans but if desired they can be removed with the tip of a knife before cooking.
Q. What is the source of Omega-3 in your eggs?
Our laying hens are fed a vegetarian diet and the omega-3 comes from flaxseed. We do not use fish meal or feather meal in the production of our eggs.
Q. Are your laying hens debeaked?
As a general practice, our laying hens are not debeaked. In the event of an aggression problem and when beak blunting is the only viable alternative, beaks of 2 – 3 day old chicks are passed over a laser beam which deadens only the very tip of the beak by restricting the blood supply. Physical cutting of beaks is not permitted.
Q. Why do your eggs occasionally taste fishy?
Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 and it is a volatile fatty acid. It makes fish taste fishy when it gets old. That is why they store flax oil in dark bottles and you have to keep it refrigerated and why they sell flaxseed whole and recommend you grind it at home. Once you grind it and the oils get exposed to air they can go rancid.
There are two possible scenarios causing the fishy taste:
1) The chickens who laid the eggs for some reason ate a higher than normal percentage of flaxseed, likely because the feed was not blended well enough.
2) The consumer who ate the eggs is particularly sensitive to the taste of fish. Some people just don’t like omega-3 eggs because they can taste the fish. We recommend that these consumers eat a different variety.