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Morning tea with animal welfare expert

May 25, 2012

Today at the RSPCA Australia office, we had the chance to have morning tea with UK Professor John Webster[1], a leader on animal welfare who works particularly on improving the conditions of farmed animals.

Over coffee and macaron cake, we discussed many topics ranging from how there is a place for higher welfare products on the supermarket shelves to how to educate the community so they make informed food choices that will help the lives of millions of animals.

Inspired by our morning, and since we are in the middle of the Hens Deserve Better campaign, I thought I would share my favourite recipe for French macarons made with cage-free eggs.

Macarons

Step 1: Beat 140g of cage-free egg whites at a low speed until they start to be solid. Add 90g of caster sugar and keep beating at the same speed until they form peak. Add another 90g of sugar and increase the speed for 2 minutes.

Step 2: Mix 160g of fine almond meal to 160g of icing sugar, then add to the egg white mixture.

Step 3: The ‘macaronage’ is a crucial step.  Fold the almond meal and icing sugar slowly to create a homogenised liquid mixture that looks shiny.  You can also add food colouring at this time.

Step 4: Pipe the macarons on a baking paper and let rest for an hour.

Step 5: It is time to put the macarons in the over at 150 degree for 12 minutes.

Once they are cooled, you can pipe ganache or jam between the shells.

NOTE: You can save the egg yolks for later, perhaps for a lovely frittata!


[1] Professor John Webster is also the original proponent of the ‘Five Freedoms‘.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    May 25, 2012 3:03 pm

    Are these eggs cage free, meaning barn laid? where the chicks are put into sheds at only a day old? Left there, workers step on “some of them” as the chicks run towards you when you enter these sheds. What’s a few lost along the way, they can claim it on “loss”. These same chicks are then made to live out their miserable lives in 24 hour artificial light, because they never see daylight. Then slaughtered at the “less productive age” before they reach the age of 2. Chickens have a natural life span of 10-12 years. Want to improve the lives of any hen? Keep them off your fork, and stop justifying their continual exploitation.

    • May 28, 2012 10:36 am

      Dear Julie,

      Thanks for your message.

      Just to clarify, barn-laid eggs are a good alternative to cage eggs and a well-managed barn can be just as good for a hen as a proper free-range facility. From an animal welfare perspective it’s a myth that barn is second best. It’s all about who is operating the system and what standards they adhere to. RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standards require that hens in a barn-laid production system are provided with space for perching and litter for scratching and dust-bathing.

      Many eggs are now being marketed as cage-free. Essentially, cage-free eggs are barn-laid eggs. Hens aren’t kept in cages but instead are able to move in large sheds. All barns have nest boxes but not all barns have perches or litter (some barns have slats or wire-mesh flooring), and some barns still have high stocking densities of hens.

      It’s also important to note that conditions on free-range farms vary greatly. On some farms, the range area is large, the hens have access to shade and shelter, and all hens are able to come and go from the range during the day; on others the range area is small, bare and difficult for hens to access. Free range hens are also kept in barns during their ‘rearing’ phase – which in some cases can be up to 18 weeks.

      The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme requires that eggs marketed as ‘free-range’ come from layer hens that have more space than those raised in conventional systems. They can perch, dustbathe, scratch and forage, and lay their eggs in a nest. These eggs come from hens that have ready access to an attractive range area during the day that provides them with shade, shelter and protection from predators.

      The RSPCA is encouraging consumers to choose cage-free (barn or free range) and say no to cage eggs with the aim to increase the number of animals farmed in higher welfare production systems.

      Regards.

  2. James permalink
    June 11, 2012 12:13 pm

    How much space per chook is given for them to dust bathe?
    Have you ever stood on wire mesh flooring? Did you think it was comfortable?
    What about the artificial lighting to increase laying periods? What about their untimely deaths when they’re considered “less productive”?
    What about all the millions of poor male chicks killed just days after birth? De beaking?
    All these conditions for barn laid hens are probably worse than the worst puppy farms!

    • Hope permalink
      June 12, 2012 2:47 pm

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Unfortunately not all production systems focus on welfare – however the RSPCA Approved Farming Standards do and are based on providing hens with their behavioural and physical needs.

      Layer hens on RSPCA Approved farms have more space than those raised in conventional systems. They can perch, scratch and forage, and lay their eggs in a nest. Hens in RSPCA Approved barns also have access to litter for dustbathing and suitable lighting to allow for adequate rest periods. The RSPCA Standards are available on our website. http://www.rspca.org.au/approvedfarming

      Male chicks are killed for two reasons: they cannot lay eggs and they are not suitable for chicken-meat production. This is because layer hens — and therefore their chicks — are a different breed of poultry to chickens that are bred and raised for meat production. The RSPCA encourages the egg industry to look at research into genetic selection based on sex (i.e. more females hatching, than males) – in an effort of reducing the number male chickens that are killed each year.

      It’s really important than consumers learn more about where their food comes from and how it’s been produced – and the more opportunities to discuss this hopefully means more consumers will make a higher welfare choice.

      Thanks,
      Hope

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