About this blog series
Here at Re:Wild, our overarching aim is to help our clients re:set, re:connect and re:build to live less-processed, slightly 'wilder' lives. The idea behind the “Re:Wilding a Welshman” blog is to Re:educate ourselves (and others along the way) on how to be ethical omnivores by shopping better, whilst shining a spotlight on great small-scale producers who are farming better.
We want to help people re:connect with what nature intended, specifically by improving people's understanding of:
In a nutshell, this blog series is about wholesome, no-nonsense living that doesn't cost the earth. I can’t wait to bring you along for the ride. Things are about to get wild!
I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to kick-off my Re-Wilding A Welshman blog series with my adventure to learn from the McMillan family at Bega Valley Eggs.
Why I love eggs
If you’ve followed me on social media for a while, you know that I am a huge advocate of the humble egg. Good quality pasture-raised eggs, like the ones produced by the happy chooks at Bega Valley Eggs, are the perfect daily multi-vit. They’re bursting with Vitamins A, D, E, B12, beta carotene and Omega 3’s, as well as being rich in protein and healthy fats. I eat eggs every day.
We all know that most Brits are deficient in Vitamin D, thanks to the lack of sunshine and pretty dismal diets (and that’s before the COVID-19 lockdowns kept us all indoors over spring and much of summer!). But what might surprise you, is that over 30% of Aussies also live with a Vitamin D deficiency, despite all the sunshine. Since Brits don’t get enough sunshine to begin with, and Aussies are advised to avoid the sun to prevent sun damage, it is vital that we get Vitamin D from our diets.
But aren’t eggs bad for me?
I get so many questions from my followers about my egg consumption: “…but what about your cholesterol?”; “should I only be eating the egg white?”, “but what about the chickens’ welfare?!”.
The conversation around eggs has long been misrepresented and misleading (with the exception of the blight that is battery hen eggs… in my honest opinion there is no place for battery hen eggs in anyone’s diet, but more on this later).
As a qualified nutritional advisor and an advocate of evidence-based nutrition, I want to share a few eggy nutrition facts that might put your mind at ease:
Key takeaways: Eggs are affordable and nutrient-dense, they contain high-quality protein and fats, the yolk is where most of the goodness is… so you should go ahead and regularly enjoy whole eggs!
Meet the farmers
My followers will remember that I was a huge fan of St Ewe’s pasture-raised eggs when I lived in London. When I arrived in Australia, I was instantly on a mission to find the best eggs available, and a few of my wife’s ethical foodie friends recommended Bega Valley Eggs. I bought my first dozen and was blown away by the flavour, colour and form of the eggs, so I wanted to learn more about how these eggs got so darn good. I reached out to the owners - Tom and Joscelin - and they invited us out to learn more and to meet the chooks that lay these golden eggs!
The vision we were met with was nothing short of idyllic: green rolling hills, two adorable children running around, happy red hens rummaging in the meadows and laying eggs in the open hutches, all proudly protected 24/7 by Romano & Bruno - two VERY large and affectionate Maremma Sheepdogs.
Tom and Joss describe themselves as passionate custodians of the land, which is evident in their regenerative farming, holistic management practices and commitment to the welfare of their animals. They have 7000 laying hens (affectionately referred to as ‘The Girls’) who have 50 acres of rolling pasture to rummage on. This rummaging increases the nutrient density and quality of the eggs while simultaneously fertilising and replenishing the land.
What makes their approach to farming different to ‘big ag’ style farming?
The agriculture sector is one of the biggest emitters of CO2, the greenhouse gas most responsible for the changes we are seeing in our climate today. Regenerative farming helps us fight the climate crisis by pulling carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it in the ground.
If our produce isn’t farmed on pasture (and most of it isn’t), farmers have to grow grains (which also have to be sprayed with nasties and distributed to feed lots) to feed them – this is where the confusion around animals’ contribution to environmental degradation and climate change is. Feed lots and battery hen eggs are devastating for animal welfare and the environment, but what many fail to realise and is that when hens are reared in pastures, their simple act of scratching in the fields and dropping their manure puts nutrients back into the earth.. It is actually beneficial!
The Girls at the McMillan’s farm are free to roam, so they spend their days foraging and consuming a natural diet of insects in the fields, and are also fed a nutritious blend of grain and premium pellet to meet their complex nutritional requirements.
Of an evening, the hens roost in purpose built, portable houses which are moved through the pasture each week, fertilising the land with invaluable manure and increasing the quality and quantity of topsoil. The act of moving the hen housing on a regular basis is the pinnacle of Tom and Joss’s holistic management practices. The constant movement of their headquarters regenerates the land by spreading their nitrogen & nutrient rich manure evenly through the pasture, and also ensures they always have a clean home and are not scratching in their own mess. This cleanliness minimises the risk of parasites and mites and eliminates the need for chemical treatments to address these health issues.
On this farm there is never more than 300 birds per hectare, whereas even Industrial Free Range standards allow a whopping 10,000 hens per hectare and are allowed outside for only a portion of the day.
Better farming = more nutrient dense, more delicious eggs from happier, healthier chickens
As my followers know, I am all about quality nutrients and getting good quality bang for my buck. Scientific studies show that pasture-raised eggs are more nutrient-dense per calorie, so your cost per measure of nutrients is cheaper! In fact, pasture-raised eggs contain approximately three to four times the amount of vitamin D than the eggs of hens that are raised indoors, and are also higher in vitamin A, E and omega-3s, as well as lower in cholesterol and saturated fat.
If you’re looking for signs of a quality egg then look no further than an orange and firm yolk with a creamy egg white. Your eggs shouldn’t break under the slightest pressure - just like these wonderful farmers who get up every morning, no matter the weather or circumstances, to make sure we have quality food on our plates.
“But pasture-raised eggs are so flipping expensive!”
I wish that I could argue that this wasn’t true, but on a per egg basis, these eggs are a bit more spenny. That’s why, as an ethical omnivore, I’d urge you to also consider:
Being a health conscious and ethical omnivore isn’t about perfection, but progress towards a happier and healthier life for ourselves, our livestock and our land.
I started this journey to see if I was at peace with the produce I consume, where it comes from and life it lead. I can honestly say that I walked away from the McMillan's farm with the warm and fuzzies that my eggs are grown here.
If you’d like to connect and learn more about Tom, Joscelin and the farm (I’d highly recommend you do), here are some ways you can reach out:
I’d love to know your thoughts.
Speak soon, JC.