The Dutch Chickens Producing Carbon Neutral Eggs
Battery chickens produce very cheap eggs but at the birds endure a miserable life. Free-range eggs tend be more expensive for the consumer but the hens enjoy a better life. However, this method of farming still negatively impacts the environment. The birds are often fed on expensive imported corn which could be fed to people. 70% of the carbon footprint of egg production is accounted for by the feed.
Dutch poultry farmer Ruud Zanders appears to have found a solution to the problem. His operation near Venray could be the world’s most environmentally friendly farm. His eggs are now on sale in Dutch Lidl stores and are called Kipster Eggs. Kip means chicken in Dutch and Ster means star!
Chickens and the Food Chain
Zanders is both a farmer and a university lecturer. He believes that it is time to rethink poultry farming and the position of animals in the food chain. He feels that it doesn’t make any sense for people to be competing with animals for food.
His innovative new venture could be demonstrating the way forward. 24,000 chickens live at his farm which partners the highest possible welfare standards with the lowest possible environmental cost. Ironically the resulting eggs cannot be sold as free-range as the farm does not conform to some of the rules which Zander feels are foolish.
Free but not Free-Range
Zander’s hens are not technically free-range because he doesn’t have the necessary 10 hectares of land for them. But he argues that hens are generally fearful of open land and would not use it all anyway. He keeps 6.7 hens per square metre which is actually a better ratio than most free-range farms where there would typically be 9 hens per square metre.
There are shutters between the hens’ sleeping quarters and a covered yard. Every morning the shutters are lifted and the hens can spend all day wandering and exploring the yard as they please. They return to their sleeping quarters at 7.30pm.
Above the courtyard, 1078 solar panels provide energy for the farm and even generate enough electricity to sell power back to the grid. The chickens are fed a diet of broken biscuits, rice cakes and other scraps which would otherwise be thrown away. These are collected from bakeries in the region and made into feed. The hens are fitting in to the food chain rather than competing with humans for corn. The use of waste food reduces the farm’s carbon footprint.
The waste food and the solar panels combine to make the farm carbon neutral.
Slaughtering the Chickens
After 70 weeks, the chickens are slaughtered and their meat used to make food to be sold on the local market. The Kipster farm has also established a special arrangement with the chicken-rearing farm that supplies the hens. Male chicks are usually gassed after they hatch and then thrown away or used as food in zoos. Kipster chicks will be reared for 17 weeks and then slaughtered to make rooster burgers.
Kipster eggs are sold in made from potato starch to complete the environmentally friendly credentials of the farm.