Most of us don’t buy quail eggs on our weekly shop, but the topic of the quail eggs is a perfect example of our perceptions and how massive welfare issues can go unnoticed. Quail eggs look cute, they are exotic, seen as a luxury items, an image of a wild bird, often served in fancy restaurants as part of artwork on the plate.
Annually 1.4M are farmed for meat and 400,000 for eggs. 90% are intensively farmed. Think battery hens and banned barren cages, think worse, quails are not protected by any species specific EU legislation, containing them in wires cages, allocating no more space than the size of a beer mat per bird is legal.
Quail are the smallest animal to be intensively farmed, they are sensitive, nervous birds that naturally seek shelter amongst undergrowth, eating seeds and insects. They have strong migratory instincts.
UK supermarkets appear to be aware of the issue, many now selling the industry standard for higher welfare labelled ‘free-to-fly’. The same applies to all eggs if it doesn’t say free range, or free-to-fly it is from a caged bird. With 90% of eggs coming from caged quails someone is eating them, be careful it is not you
Example ‘free-to-fly’ brands available in supermarkets:
- https://www.clarencecourt.co.uk are a leading brand is higher welfare, luxury eggs e.g. Waitrose, Ocado, Sainsbury’s
- http://www.thetraditionalfreerangeeggcompany.co.uk/quails-eggs e.g. Ocado
In summary, quails eggs are something I can live without, but if you can’t then make sure you buy quails eggs that are labelled ‘free-to-fly’ to support these businesses, ask in the restaurant or at catered events if the egg is from a caged bird, sadly I suspect the majority will be.
Why ‘free-to-fly’ and not free range? Quail don’t roost meaning they don’t go to bed, they can’t be kept in fully free range systems as they would fly away and not come back. Therefore they are kept in aviaries, sometimes with outdoor access and sometimes barn systems.