Free range is all about freedom and it is a term that has become increasingly familiar in food and farming. Free range eggs are now well established and account for around half of all the eggs sold in the UK. The reason for this is we all value freedom and most want to make more ethical choices when buying food.
Unlike hens, there are no EU laws governing free range dairy farming. So, Free Range Dairy has established a simple set of standards for producers, to provide consumers with a clear assurance that they are buying milk from cows that enjoy the freedom to graze. In order to use our Pasture Promise label, farmers must commit to grazing their cows for at least six months of the year. We have developed producer standards that will be independently audited as part of the Red Tractor assessment carried out on farm, to ensure farmers comply.
Chicken & Egg
Free range hens are usually shut in at night to protect them from predators and their natural instinct is to roost. Although on some farms free range hens may eat some grass and other plants their diet is largely based on cereals fed inside. The maximum flock size under British Lion egg standards is 16,000 hens.
Free Range Cows
Free Range Dairy is working with farmers to maximise the amount of time cows spend outside grazing each year. In the spring and summer free range dairy cows have the freedom to roam pastures both night and day and move around different fields on the farm. The grass beneath their feet is where they eat and sleep. Grazing is good for our cows and good for milk.
From November to February grass almost stops growing. This means we need to house our cows in winter and feed them with grass we have conserved as silage and hay. In some areas cows can spend the winter outside, which makes keeping them much cheaper. But, we have to weigh up how hard this is on the cows and how much milk we expect them to produce in the winter months.