Happy Eggs – Behind the scenes at a free-range farm in rural England
Scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, in an omelette, in a frittata – whichever way you like your eggs, they are an unbeatable source of protein and unsurprisingly, a much-loved way to kick start the day with a power-packed breakfast. I have always loved eggs especially runny scrambled ones like the ones my Baba makes for breakfast. It was hard for me then, to say no to a tempting invitation by Happy Eggs to come visit their farm up in Tring.
Travelling to Happy Eggs farm from London
Having read so much, about how Happy Eggs Co like to have their girls roam around freely, this was a chance for me to experience things firsthand. So on a perfectly fine summer afternoon, I set out from London to the Hertfordshire. Arriving from London on the day would have been a nightmare, so I decided to stay one night in the village nearby the farm.
After a rather nightmarish re-routing of my otherwise straightforward journey to Luton, I finally managed to get there only about two hours late, thanks to cancelled and delayed trains. Thankfully, after that bit, it was a just quick drive from Luton station into the picturesque countryside.
No better way to recharge my batteries than a quick getaway out of London city limits. After I checked into the Five Bells Vintage Inn, I met lovely Jane who writes at The Hedgecombers for a quick drink and dinner. It was absolutely fabulous catching up with her after months. Jane is just one of the many amazing bloggers I have met at FBC and over the years we all have become really good friends. While Jane went back to her cute camper van for the night, I settled in early to ensure I got to the farm on time.
120 acres of space at the Bulborne Happy Eggs Co. Farm
Feeling Egg-tastic at the Happy Eggs farm at Bulborne
Breakfast at the B&B with Jane was a quick affair and I even got to ride with her to the farm in that camper van – Woohoo!!! – quite a treat for a city like me! We lost our way a bit and after driving around in circles for a bit we finally made our way to Bulborne farm. We were greeted by a big bunch of bloggers and the Happy Egg co team.
It was a good that we had an early breakfast then, as we missed the morning treats laid out for us. After a quick introduction we all donned fresh blue overalls and sipped into wellies – I have NEVER walked for so many hours in wellies before but it was not as bad as I thought it would be.
Happy Eggs Farm at Bulborne is an Organic farm spread across 120 acres of open,lush green space
Farmer JP of Bulborne farm is one of the many farmers who work with Noble Foods, the company that owns the Happy Egg brand. Bulborne Farm houses 14,000 girls as the hens are known or VIBS – very important birds in a space spread across 120 acres. This farm is a fully organic farm which means it is audited by bodies such as Organic Food Federation or Organic Farmers & Growers. This is in addition, to being certified and audited by the BEIC Lion Code.
All the Free Range, Barn and Organic farms that Noble Foods works with are also certified and audited by the RSPCA Freedom Food Scheme – a scheme to ensure hen welfare giving them not just wide open spaces to roam around freely but also to ensuring that they have access to dust-baths and specially designed activity kits, exactly like the one you see in my photo below.
Activity Kits for hens at Happy Eggs farm
The focus on hen welfare and production of free-range eggs is given so much importance that they even sponsor research into work that how to create and maintain a stress free environment for the girls and keep them happy. After all Happy Hens produce Happy eggs!
At the hen-house, ( no pun intended!) we saw the hens run outside to enjoy the sunshine, all the while, clucking away very happily. As we stood and took in what Farmer JP told us about a typical day in the life of an egg farmer, the hens roamed around freely around our group, not in the least perturbed by our presence.
While one part of our group went inside the hen house to look at how it is designed and what facilities are provided to ensure the hens are healthy and happy and feel safe while laying eggs, we took turns holding these handsome birds. The naughty hen I held tried to peck at my hand and escaped from my hands before I could pose for a decent picture – naughty girl!
Did you know that a hen lays an egg every 26 hours? Or that hens need dust to keep themselves clean and well-groomed? Hens are very intelligent beings and quite inquisitive by nature. To ensure that they get to satisfy their natural curiosity, each farm ensures that at least 20% of every open area must have trees planted on it.
Farmer JP explained that he understands the difference between a happy clucking and would know of his girls were unhappy instantly. One of the indicators as I already mentioned is that the hens are fearless around humans, also the hens at his farm have a very healthy and shiny set of feathers.
Now that we have established that these eggs truly are free-range, how do we differentiate between the taste of eggs laid by happy hens versus caged hens? Farmer JP told us that the happy state of mind and healthy living conditions of his Happy hens results in tastier eggs. Also, fewer eggs with defects are found. These defects include a thin shell or wrinkled eggshell, which are indicators that the hens are under stress.
Ergonomically designed housing for hens at Happy Eggs farm
As I walked into the e hen house, I steeled myself for an assault on my olfactory senses – what with all the pee and poo of hens, but honestly I was quite pleasantly surprised. There was dust flying around, thanks a bunch of excited hens who were jumping around in their dust-bath and cackling loudly as if exchanging some juicy gossip.
JP explained that the feeders, waste management system and egg collection areas are designed to ensure that hens are well-fed, their living space is kept clean, all this also designed to provide privacy for the hens when they want to lay eggs.
On being quizzed about an article in the Daily Mail about hens being caged, we were informed that those hens were being treated for an illness and the article was factually incorrect. A claim that was backed by RSPCA. Sadly, as the article was not fact-based, it was followed by an apology later. Unfortunately, bad news spreads like a virus and this affects all the farmers who strive to maintain high standards. I speak from my personal experience of my visit to Bulborne farm which I can assure you, was very clean. To maintain the level of hygiene we witnessed on the day, I am positive that there is a lot of work hard involved backed by careful consideration towards hen welfare. Happy Egg farms at Bulborne contribute to research and have performed better than expected during all their audits, yes, even the ones that happen unannounced and when least expected.
Picking eggs at the Happy Eggs farm
We then picked some of the freshly laid eggs and had a look at the area where the eggs are stored before being shipped out. The stamping of the eggs is a manual process and the unique codes help identify exactly which farm they originate from. The eggs are graded by size and packed into the trademark cheery yellow cartons that are so easily recognisable on supermarket shelves.
Famished after all that hard work we headed back to the base where a freshly prepared four course meal awaited. Chefs from Jackson & Rye restaurants in London cooked us a feast of smoked devilled eggs as canapes’ sprinkled with chives and a taste of delicious mayo, creamy avocados and spinach in Eggs Florentine.
This was followed by a massive portion of the classic Mexican treat – Huevos Rancheros – loved the perfectly poached eggs on top oozing golden yolk and the fresh tomatoes and guacamole. Dessert was a Pecan tart which I wolfed down at lightening speed.
To truly understand the meaning of free range and how gold standards are achieved and maintained one must experience at close quarters how a Happy Egg farm is managed. By no means, an easy task, the passion that the whole team here has towards hen welfare is evident from the love they have for these birds.
Recipe inspiration from my kitchen
While I have you here, can I interest in you in some of my egg-tastic recipes? Have a gander and leave me a comment (or two) if you rustle up any of these dishes :
- Indian Masala Egg Omlette
- Egg curry – Anda curry – easy recipe for Uni students
- Turkish Poached Eggs – Cilbir
- Eggs baked in pots with smoky chorizo and chives
- Soft boiled eggs and asparagus soldiers – one of my Dad’s fav recipes
- Vintage Frittata recipe
I was so egg-cited to meet some of my fellow food bloggers who came along for this farm visit. They were egg-cellent company! Alex Ryder writes at The Gingey Bites Heidi Roberts blogs at Kitchen Talk and travels
Visiting Tring? Have a look at my review of the beautiful Five Bells Vintage Inn here.
Disclaimer: With thanks to the Happy Eggs co for having me as a guest at Tring and Bulborne Free Range Happy Egg Co Farm. Many Thanks to Farmer JP and his team for a fabulous day out. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated monetarily for this post.