Quails – small egg, big problems

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.

Price wise, I found ‘free-to-fly’ quail eggs to be the same price or cheaper then the caged eggs for sale e.g. caged quail eggs from www.finefoodspecialist.co.uk.

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.

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Marketing – YOU are their secret weapon

Gu desserts – no GuD for hens

Gu desserts is a luxury brand with an annual turnover of around £25M. Their individually packaged desserts for two people cost around £3.00 (between £15 – £25 per kg). This is between 1.5 and 3 times the cost of equivilent premium brand desserts (Tesco Finest / Waitrose).

For comparison (FR eggs = Free range eggs):

  • Chocolate melt middles – Gu = £1.50  / Tesco = £0.74 / Waitrose (FR egg) = £1.11 (per KG)
  • Lemon cheesecake – Gu = £1.90 / Tesco = £0.55 / Waitrose = £0.67 (FR eggs) (per KG)
  • NY cheesecake – Gu = £1.93 / Tesco = £1.53 (FR eggs) / Waitrose = £1.23 (FR eggs) (per KG)

A luxury product, slick packaging, high cost, I would expect top notch ingredients? Sadly not. I contacted Gu to confirm that their desserts were not made with free range eggs. Despite their wordy reply about their moral conscience as a company and promotion of their great tasting desserts the long and short was that they do not use free range eggs in their desserts. They advised that they use barn eggs and claimed this was due to a lack of availability of free range eggs.

I questioned this further on the basis that barn eggs makes up a mere 1.2% of egg production in the UK versus 48% from free range eggs I got a second similarly lengthy yet contentless reply adding that it was a cost decision. I hoped to find something to persuade me not to find fault in these facts but I kept coming back to the same conclusion. They sell the most expensive desserts on our supermarkets shelves and yet they are penny pinching on ingredients, hoping that none of us would notice or care?

When we buy a product and support a brand we are voting for what we think is acceptable. Read the labels and place the right vote. Brands that lead the way and don’t wait for consumer pressure get my vote every time.

Gu is owned by Noble foods, acquired in 2009 for an estimated £35M. Noble foods is the UK largest egg producer, handling over 60 million eggs per week.

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Coffee – our roving reporter reports

Mr Ethivore (AKA Booba) is always on the hunt for a coffee on his way to work. He aims to buy a non dairy milk alternative mocha-choco-chino (flat white). Today he reported ‘Wow, Starbucks had coconut, oat and almond milk alternatives!’

He also commented that Costa now have coconut as well as soya milk and that their coffee is better (in his view).

When buying your daily coffee look for organic milk or milk alternatives.

 

Only 3% of us get enough fibre

Whilst most of us worry about getting enough protein or calcium the reality is the biggest deficiency in our diets is fibre. 97% do not get enough fibre. Fibre only exists in plant based foods, vegetables, grain, fruit, beans etc so with our western diet revolving around animal based products is causing us to face an uphill battle. It is recommended that we get at least 30g per day, but most of us get around half of that. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/spotlight-high-fibre-diets

This leads to worrying health risks including diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diverticular disease, colon cancer and heart disease. Also a little know fact is that a fibre rich diet can aid weight loss http://www.eatingwell.com/article/15696/is-fiber-good-for-weight-loss . I can vouch for that, since converting to a plant based diet I am never hungry.

Adopting a plant based diet as part of your move to becoming an ethical omnivore will naturally increase your fibre intake. A win/win all round.