HOW can you tell if your free-range eggs really are free-range?

The sorry tale of conman Keith Owen, reported in your Worcester News earlier this year, highlighted a problem that could be more widespread than you might think.

Mr Owen was a Bromsgrove businessman who was jailed for three years after admitting making a fortune by fraudulently passing off battery farm eggs as free-range or organic.

About 100 million mislabelled eggs sold by Mr Owen ended up on the shelves of supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco.

Mr Owen not only bought-in cheap battery hen eggs in order to fool customers further down the line, he also bought huge quantities of so-called “industrial eggs”. They were only supposed to be used in processed foods, once they had been “liquefied”.

So, how can we make sure our eggs are fresh and free-range?

You can, of course, taste the difference straight away – properly free-range eggs are fresher and have so much more flavour. But that would mean buying the eggs in the first place, which would be pointless.

The only way to be absolutely sure your eggs are free-range is to buy them at a Worcestershire Farmers’ Market.

A large number of stallholders keep chickens, often as a sideline to their main business.

These are not large-scale egg producers, just people who use their land to the best of their abilities and have a few happy hens scratching around doing what hens are supposed to do.

Check out the Akiki Organics stall for some of the best eggs about – free-range and organic, Charbel Akiki has three small flocks of 90 to 100 birds in his orchard at Elms Farm, North Piddle, near Pershore.

Once you have tasted truly fresh eggs, you will never want to buy them anywhere else other than a farmers’ market.

Today’s farmers’ market is in High Street, Bromsgrove, from 9am until 5pm. Next weekend’s markets are in Abbey Road, Malvern, from 9am until 2pm on Saturday, June 19, and at Angel Place, Worcester, from 9am until 3pm on Sunday, June 20.