FEW people realise just how much hard work and extra cost goes into producing a free range organic egg - as opposed to a standard free range egg - or appreciate the difference in quality between the two.
Wally Waldron and Vicki Rix, who have been farming organic free range eggs on their property at Nashua for more than a decade, say that as organic growers, they have to tick considerably more boxes than producers who are simply classified as free range.
For example, they buy their chicks day-old so they can be raised on certified, non-GM organic food, as opposed to conventional free range growers, who buy their chickens at point-of-lay - about 18 weeks.
When it comes to stocking densities, numbers vary greatly among conventional free range egg producers. The RSPCA recommends 1500 birds per hectare, but this is not enforced, and some commercial free range growers stock up to 10,000 birds.
Organic growers like Wally and Vicki, on the other hand, must keep within the Australia Certified Organic regulations of 1000 birds per hectare. The pair choose to run half that number and this is subject to a yearly inspection.
It all adds up to higher costs and less financial return for organic growers but having happy, healthy, ethically and organically-raised chickens is what matters to Wally and Vicki.
"The chickens have a nice environment to be chickens in," says Wally. "They've got dusting areas, dry areas, shaded areas, fresh green grass. A comfortable life. We've got pretty happy chickens."
They're also pretty healthy.
"Because our area is so large and because we move them around and it's not condensed we don't have bug problems and we don't have worming problems at all. It's amazing," says Vicki.
The quality of the eggs is the pay-off for all of the extra effort - nutritious, delicious eggs with bright yellow yolks.
"We get lots of comments about the colour and the taste," says Vicki. "It's the feedback you get from customers saying 'they're the best eggs', 'thank you so much' or 'please, thank your chooks' ... that's what keeps you going."
> Find Nashua Valley Organic Eggs and Coffee at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market every Friday.
See this weekend's Northern Star for a yummy bacon, egg and leek pie by Belinda Jeffery plus more fabulous recipes in Weekend