It seems, from the latest studies, that free range eggs have a carbon footprint some 20% greater than battery cage eggs. As a youngster I worked on a poultry farm back in the days when the chooks were kept in large sheds spread with shavings. Old Stan Gunter always said that the chickens must be kept happy, or they would not lay. That was what battery cage owners said too, when battery hens came in.
Nutritionally there is no difference between a battery egg and a free range egg. There may be some aesthetic differences in yolk colour but it has little significance. Frankly the one argument for free range eggs is dependent on whether you can get them sooner after they are laid. In other words are they fresher? In many cases they are not.
Battery eggs are cheaper. In the final analysis, that is where my interest lies. I will pay more for some good quality meat or fish, but I am not keen on paying a premium to eat an egg from a hen that got to wander outside, when there is no discernible benefit to me. Especially since the latest scandal is on whether they actually do wander free, or whether they are just kept in crowded sheds like those Stan Gunter used to run at the Kowhai Poultry Farm in the 1960s.
I don’t really even care if a chicken is happy, whether it is laying eggs or laying down its life for a fricassee. Just as I prefer not enquire after the emotional status of my steak, pork or lamb chops or turkey drumsticks before their demise. I am an omnivore. I evolved to eat meat and vegetables, grains, seeds and pulses, and fruit. In order to do so, they have to be farmed, or hunted and gathered, and the animals,birds and fish have to die.