Laid by chooks living the open range dream, the hens behind Real Eggs graze freely on thousands of acres, which the Real Eggs team call open range. With just 8 hens per hectare the chooks have so much space and grass that they are living the chicken dream.
We had a chat to the Real Eggs team to find out more about their Open Range Farming, and how they get their eggs tasting so delicious.
Who are the team behind Real Eggs and why did they launch Real Eggs?
Real Eggs founders and fourth-generation custodians of their farm in Yandoit, near Daylesford, Paul and Jacqui Righetti, acutely feel a responsibility to honour the soil, the open pastures, the land and its creatures. Real Eggs aims to be a collective of like-minded farmers who believe ‘open range’ farming should be the benchmark for free range egg farming. The Righetti’s work with only with one other small producer located in Hamilton, Victoria. This model will grow in accordance with strict compliance requirements.
Their philosophy supports the idea that ‘open range’ farming should be the benchmark for free range egg farming. The Real Eggs hens roost in custom-made ‘campers’ which are moved every couple of days onto fresh pasture, providing shelter, water and access to extra grains which complement the chooks natural hunt for plentiful bugs and grubs. The stocking density is less that 8 chooks per hectare.
What is the Real Eggs farming process?
At Real Eggs, sheep graze and shorten the pasture, making way for the chickens to rejuvenate and fertilise the paddocks. It’s a holistic system that connects farming with nature and its rhythms.
The chickens arrive at the farm when they are 16 weeks old. The breed is Loeman, a derivative of the Isa Brown. Unlike other egg farms, Real Eggs chickens are not de-beaked, as this would prevent them from naturally foraging for bugs and worms which increases the nutrient density of the eggs and contributes to their rich coloured yolk.
Over 2-3 weeks they learn about their new home - perching, where to lay, how to enter and exit their home and locate food and water. They also get to know the Maremma dogs and an Alpaca who patrols and lives with the flock to protect them from predators such as foxes. Hay bales are positioned under the campers to help the chickens learn the entry points into the camper in order to lay. Chickens feed on the pastures, a mix of annual rye grass, native grass, phalaris, coxfoot and lucerne.
Currently the flock numbers 4,800 girls which produce 28,000 eggs per week and the flock will grow to 6,300 at the end of June 2016. This growth is due to both demand for the eggs as well as the positive impact it is having on the soils of our farm.
The process used may be hands-on and labour intensive, but that’s more than okay! It affords greater care and control and creates a superior, highly ethical product in a way that has the Real Eggs hen’s welfare at its core. These are healthy eggs from the happiest hens you’d ever have the pleasure to meet.
Having commenced our trial in late 2015 and received wonderful feedback through direct interaction with customers and accounts, it is incredibly rewarding to have these positive responses to the product.
Regionally we have also have had tremendous support during the trial and incredible encouragement, enthusiasm and interest from our region.
What does a day in the life of the Real Eggs team look like?
We spend our days looking after our chooks and moving on to fresh pasture, collecting the freshly laid eggs which are then graded, candled and washed (we use a natural citrus based wash). Orders are then packed for local Daylesford and Macedon region and Melbourne customers.
What are the Real Eggs teams thoughts on the current standards in place for free range egg farming and what would you like to see change?
10,000 per hectare is far too many to be classified as free range, that is why we are differentiating ourselves as open range because we are 1000 times less density at 8 birds per hectare.
Can you tell us about the nutritional benefits of Real Eggs?
Real eggs are much more nutrient dense due to the foraging nature and the availability of fresh pasture and sunlight our hens are able to access.
When the Real Eggs team aren’t busy on the farm what do they enjoy doing in Daylesford?
We enjoy our family and friends, we have young children and really enjoy their educational development and sporting pursuits.
If the Real Eggs team was stranded on an island and could only bring three things what would they be?
Our eggs, quality bacon and a frying pan