We don’t buy free range eggs because we care about chooks

Angus Kidman 23 May 2017 NEWS

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We're shelling out for the taste instead.

A University of Adelaide study has confirmed that while Australians are increasingly keen on free-range eggs, it's not because we give a flying feather about the welfare of chickens.

The study found that the main reason we buy free range eggs is that they taste better and we think they're more nutritious.

That result scrambled the brains of researchers, who had expected that ethical considerations would rank higher given previous consumer research.

"These findings are in many ways unexpected, because we thought that the welfare of chickens would be the first reason people would give for purchasing free-range eggs," study lead Dr Heather Bray said.

Freshness is definitely a key consideration given the Australian propensity for raw egg products. No, I'm not yolking.

"Free range" may not mean what you think it does in any case. Under current regulations, eggs can be marketed as "free range" if they come from a farm which has less than 10,000 birds per hectare. That isn't a spectacularly generous allocation, and there have been calls to set a much lower limit. As well, the birds don't need have to have permanent access to that space. At least that means it's harder for thieves to poach them.

The results aren't entirely surprising though. Historically, eggs were amongst the most common store brand purchases in Australia - we don't have any Vegemite-style brand loyalty - and the vast majority of supermarket-brand eggs were from caged birds until recent years.

What it boils down to is this: the fact that free range eggs are (relatively) kind to chooks is a handy bonus. But that's not the basis for our decision. It's what happens when we fry them.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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