Mobile Pastured Free Range Eggs
Are your macadamia nuts organic?
Our macadamia orchard is chemical and pesticide spray free and although we fertilise with organic seaweed, we are not a certified organic grower. We decided against becoming a certified organic macadamia grower as the cost of the certification process was prohibitively high for a small grower like us. We also did not want to pass those costs on to the customer through making our macadamia nut products more expensive to purchase.
How many macadamia trees do you have?
We have 3,426 macadamia trees in total. Of these 1,871 trees were planted in 1986–1988, 995 trees were planted in 1996, 440 in 2005 and 120 in 2009. We will soon be starting commercial harvesting of the trees planted in 2005 and 2009.
How big is your farm?
Our property is 49.8Ha or just over 123 acres.
Can we visit the farm?
We are not able to have members of the public on the property as we have a commercial pastured free range egg operation which requires us to adhere to strict bio-security conditions, as mandated by Safe Food Production Queensland
When are macadamia nuts harvested?
Macadamia nuts are an autumn / winter crop so we start harvesting from March through to August/September. Occasionally we will harvest into October if we are running late because of unforeseen circumstances, such as machinery problems during the harvest.
How do you harvest macadamias? Do you shake the tree like harvesting olives?
Macadamias fall to the ground at harvest time and from there they are picked by a mechanical harvester attached to a tractor. Macadamia trees have a shallow root system, so shaking the trees will mostly like result in damage to the roots or up-rooting of the tree.
How long does it take to grow a macadamia tree?
A macadamia tree will take around seven years to start producing macadamias; but they do not start producing a commercial harvestable crop until they are 10–12 years old.
Are macadamias native to Australia, as I have been told they are originally from Hawaii?
The macadamia tree is a native rain-forest tree and was discovered in Queensland in 1858 by Dr Ferdinand von Mueller. The macadamia nut is the only native Australian bush food that is grown in commercial quantities. Aborigines considered macadamia nuts to be a delicacy and they were traded between tribes and also used as gifts. One of our neighbouring macadamia orchards is called Kindal Plantation, so named for kindal kindal; one of the Aborigine names for the macadamia nut. The macadamia nut has at various times also been called the Bauple nut (Bauple is located about 30 minutes north of our farm) and the Queensland nut. The botanical name for the main commercial variety of macadamia tree is Macadamia integrifolia.
It is believed macadamia trees migrated from Queensland to Hawaii in 1882 via William Purvis who took macadamia nuts he gathered near Bauple to Hawaii’s Big Island. Today, Hawaii continues to be a large grower and manufacturer of macadamia nuts; and they have become well known in the United States through Mrs Field’s macadamia and chocolate chip cookies
Confusion can arise as there are two main varieties of commercial macadamia trees in Australia – Hawaiian and Australian. In this instance the Hawaiian varieties refer to hybrids from macadamia trees grown in Hawaii. At Sandy Creek Macadamias we grow both the Hawaiian and Australian variety macadamia trees
Are macadamia nuts fattening?
Although macadamias are calorie dense, they have a high satiety rating which means that you only need to eat a small quantity to feel full. They are also very good for you nutritionally. They are high in protein and a rich source of “good” fats, with a very high content (81% of total fat) of healthy mono-unsaturated fat, that is also found in olive oil. Macadamias do not contain cholesterol and are one of the few plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids which are important for a healthy heart. Studies have shown that people who ate a handful of macadamias at least five times a week had a reduced risk of heart disease, compared with people who do not eat nuts. Macadamias are also high in dietary fibre with 30 grams of macadamias having a similar amount of dietary fibre as a slice of wholegrain bread.
Can I cook with macadamia oil and how does it compare with olive oil?
Extra virgin cold pressed macadamia oil is a clear, light golden coloured oil derived from the kernel of the macadamia nut. It has a mild nutty flavour and a smoke point of around 200°C. The smoke point of olive oil like many oils, depends on the quality of the oil which in turn depends on factors like where and how the crop is grown, and how the oil is processed e.g. if it is extra virgin or not. Olive oil therefore has a range of smoking points typically 170° to 240°C.
The relatively high smoke point of macadamia oil along with its mild flavour makes it a versatile oil suitable for deep frying, stir frying, pan frying, salad dressings, pesto and mayonnaise and also for baking, where the recipe calls for vegetable oil.
Nutritionally macadamia oil is very good for heart health as it is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, while being low in saturated fatty acids. Similarly to olive oil, this combination of fatty acids can lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol in blood. Macadamia oil also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a balanced one to one ratio.
How many hens do you have?
We currently have 630 laying hens and in the second half of 2017 we expect to add another 500.
What is your stocking density and how much space does each hen have to free range on?
Our stocking density is 350 birds per hectare which equates to 29 square metres per bird.
The RSPCA minimum standard for free range is 1,500 birds per hectare (6.67 square metres per bird) where there is no rotational management; and 2,000 birds per hectare (5 square metres per bird) where there is rotational management. The current legal minimum requirement in order for eggs to be labelled as free range, is 10,000 birds per hectare, or 1 square metre per bird.
What type of hens do you have?
Our ‘girls’ are Bond Browns and they lay brown eggs. The Bond Browns are similar to the ISA Brown hybrids bred especially for laying eggs. We also have a few Bond Blacks which are a Australorp hybrid, and lay white or pale eggs.
Where do the hens sleep at night?
Our girls roost in a mobile chicken trailer. We have 130 in the Henterprise chicken trailer and 500 in the Henrietta chicken trailer. The trailers are moved weekly (hence the term mobile pasture free range) on to fresh pasture, as most of the girls tend to forage within the immediate vicinity of their trailer home.
How do you protect your hens against predators like foxes?
The paddocks in which the girls free range is surrounded by a 1.5m high dog proof fence and within the paddock they are protected from birds of prey and watched over by their maremma guardian dog, named Henry
What is the difference in pasture free range and just plain free range eggs?
Plant material and insects are a natural part of a hen’s diet, so hens that have pasture to forage on will produce healthier eggs, which will typically be bright yellow in colour with firm whites. It is also important that hens are able to take dust baths to keep their feathers clean. Many free range egg producers do not always allow their hens to go outside, and when outside the area they roam on is often concrete or dirt with no grass.
Are pasture free range eggs healthier for you than barn or cage eggs?
As well as being more humane for the hens, a comparison of nutritional data for caged versus pastured free range eggs have found on average, that pastured free range eggs had:
- Twice as much omega-3 fatty acids.
- Three times more vitamin E.
- Seven times more pro-vitamin A beta-carotene.
- A quarter less saturated fat.
- A third less cholesterol.
Other studies have shown pastured free range eggs have up to six times more essential vitamin D and significantly more B vitamins than cage eggs.
How can I tell if my eggs are pasture free range, barn or cage eggs?
You can download an app by the Australian consumer advocate group Choice, called CluckAR to your mobile phone. The CluckAR app allows you to scan the label of any egg carton and it will tell you whether the eggs are cage, barn or free range. If the eggs are free range, the CluckAR app will also pictorially represent the stocking density by the number of hens that appear on the screen along with a rating. For example many hens will appear on the screen for a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare, and only two or three hens will appear on the screen where the hens have plenty of space to free range. The app will not tell you if the free range eggs are pastured though, however I understand that the pastured element will be incorporated in to the next iteration of the CluckAR app.
Typically pasture free range eggs will have a bright yellow yolk and firm white. Barn or cage eggs will tend to have a pale orange or orange yolk and a thin runnier white. When you poach the eggs in boiling water, the white of the pasture free range eggs will hold together; where the white of the barn or cage eggs will tend to break up and dissipate in the boiling water.
What do you feed your hens?
Our girls forage on pasture for plant material and insects to eat, and these are a natural part of a healthy hen’s diet. We also supplement their foraging with soy free mixed grain with a little diatomaceous earth, which is important in keeping the hens’ digestive systems healthy. We also provide fresh drinking water mixed with a small amount of apple cider vinegar, which keeps the water clean and also helps keep the hens healthy.
What do you do with your hens when they finish laying eggs?
We sell our girls to locals in the area as backyard hens when they are about 18 months old; as the hens are still laying but fewer larger eggs at that age. In our rural area, many people have backyard hen houses so our girls are highly sought after.