Free Range, not Free Beer

I was eating breakfast in my favorite restaurant today and I noticed a sign up on the wall that said: "Free Range Eggs, $4.00 per dozen"

Now at first I had the common knee-jerk reaction to the word "Free" that everyone does, thinking of the concept of "gratis". Then I realized that the word "Free" was related to "Range" and not the price of the eggs.

I mentioned this issue to the restaurant owner, suggesting that she change the name to "Open Range Eggs", which would then eliminate the problem of people thinking the eggs were gratis. "That is silly," she said, "everyone calls them 'Free Range Eggs'. Everyone knows that chickens are happier when they can run where they want to run, scratch for grubs where they want to scratch, and generally be free to do what they want. And people are willing to pay more for eggs that come from that type of a situation."

The restaurant owner went on to say that it does cost more to produce "Free Range Eggs" than by having chickens raised in small cages in a manufactured situation, since you have to gather the eggs, fence in a larger areas, etc. but the populace seems to think that the eggs from "Free Range" are better, and are willing to pay more for them.

Finally she asked why I suggested the term "Open Range Eggs", and I said that it was only to help eliminate the confusion of people who think that the eggs should be zero cost. "I can not deal with those type of people", said the store owner. "They only are looking for an excuse not to have to pay for the eggs. Most people understand that the chickens have to be fed, the egg gatherers have to be paid, their are heating charges for the hen-house and that it costs money to transport the eggs. Some people help us out, so they get some eggs in exchange for their work, but we have to charge money for our eggs. People who don't acknowledge that just do not want to understand the term 'Free Range' for what it really means.....better eggs, and changing the term will not help that. So we will continue to just educate people on what the term 'Free Range' means to the egg community."

So we continue to educate people about Free Software and those who wish to understand it, will understand it almost immediately.

Those who do not wish to understand the concept of Free Software will never understand it.

Eggs anyone?


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Other languages (french in

Anonymous's picture

Other languages (french in my case) don't have the free vs Free problem and the understanding of Free Software is the same as in english. Those who understands what "Logiciels Libres" are do it almost immediatly and those who don't always mix "Libre" with "gratuit". And I'm not even talking about those who don't wish to understand. So it's really not just a question of vocabulary.


Scacho's picture

I don't get this article. The "free" in free software is supposed to mean freedom, just like the "free" in free range. What's the problem?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go back to watching paint dry.

HAHA! You know I had to think

Los Angeles Tax Lawyer's picture

HAHA! You know I had to think about the post for a few minutes. Then it hit me, the author really has a problem with Free-Range using the word "Free" instead of "Open". I guess if you weren't familiar with the concept it could be confusing, but nowadays most people know that free-range means the animal being referred to was 'free to range' about the land.

What color is the paint we are watching?

Free range isn't what you think

dontodd's picture

Free range is a labelling term that is basically useless. It means that after chickens are kept in their cages for a couple of weeks, without being allowed to go outside (to protect them from disease and predators), they are then allowed to go out and scratch in a small space, if they so choose. Of course after a couple of weeks of being cooped up, they often don't make that choice.

What the restauranteur and consumers should be looking for are eggs from pastured chickens. Yeah, no government labelling stamp of approval, but it's a more accurate reflection of what people imagine when they hear the term "free range."

Free-range,pastured, -useless, misleading terms!

Anonymous's picture

This free-range designation is just a warm and fuzzy ploy to sell sub-organic quality eggs to conscientious consumers at the much higher organic prices.
Organic standards require free-range, pastured. Additionally, and what is responsible for most of the extra expense of organic egg production, is the fact that organic egg producing chickens cannot be fed "genetically-modified" feed (GMO/Frankenfood),typically GM soy.
So, eggs advertised/presented as free-range that don't have the official USDA organic label are engaging in subterfuge to pass off their frankenfood raised eggs to unsuspecting consumers at organic prices.
Just as with the difference between free software and open source, the difference/devil is, in deed, in the details.

"Organic" food

Tweenk's picture

"Organic food" is the dumbest term ever invented. I have no problems with calling this ecological food, sustainable food, or about anything else, but "organic food" is plain stupid. I bet nobody is able to live off non-organic food unless one is a plant, because "organic" means "of biological origin" or "containing specific carbon compounds" (I could elaborate further on the latter one, but there's no point).

As an off-topic note, bullshitting people that GM food is in some way directly harmful to their health is also stupid (I don't imply that anyone is doing this here, because nobody said something like that). I acknowledge that it can create economical and social problems because of the monopolization it can cause, and some GM species can disrupt the ecological balance, but the preconception that it's unhealthy to eat is baseless.

Polish also doesn't have the free-speech/free-beer confusion. Instead, there's confusion between "free" and "slow", so "free software" becomes "slow software". :) Additionally, the equivalent of the abbreviation "FOSS" is "WiOO", which is also an exclamation used to hurry a horse.

This is what really gets me

Anonymous's picture

This is what really gets me about libertarian dogma. Clearly there is market demand for eggs produced by chickens that are pastured, and yet instead of actually doing so, the "invisible hand of the market" looks for ways to essentially confuse the issue (inventing the term "free range", for example) and make people think they are getting something when they aren't. Ask any libertarian about this and they will just shrug their shoulders and rationalize it away as a exception to the rule, but just take a good look at any industry out there and what you will see is that the "invisible rule of the market" is to cut corners and to use misleading advertising and promotion to increase profit. I am most certainly not opposed to capitalism, but libertarian dogma has far too high of a status in the open source community than it deserves. Like communism, it is a philosophy that sounds great on paper, but could never really work in the real world.

Free what?

Anonymous's picture

Strange, that is never my first reaction - probably because I am not American.
If you look it up on, you will find that, in various dictionaries, the most common meaning of the word free is usually something like "enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery: a land of free people", "pertaining to or reserved for those who enjoy personal liberty: They were thankful to be living on free soil", etc. That was always what it meant to me anyway, but somehow its meaning in everyday English has shifted towards "free as in beer". I wonder if that could be the result of the commercialization of everything; too much advertizing I guess...

It has nothing to do with

Anonymous's picture

It has nothing to do with being American. We simply have no term in common usage other than "free" to describe something having no monetary cost. To the best of my knowledge, the British don't have one either.

Free gratis seldom exists

P.Woods's picture

Commercialisation kills everything.
How often do you see "Free gift with this product"?
It is never free!
It may be INCLUDED in the deal, but that ain't FREE!

Need to invent a word or import one!

TK's picture

Like you say, English simply doesn't have a simple word like other languages to distinguish between "gratis" and "libre". I'm starting to make a habit of using "Free" with a capital 'F' when writing about "free as in freedom", and "free" with a small 'f' when writing about "free as in beer".

The problem comes when speaking about either one.

Perhaps it's time to invent a word, use it for a year, and submit it to the dictionaries. :)

Good idea...

Anonymous's picture

Semper Liber, or just Liber.

Just a couple of ideas. Latin tends to make the meaning clearer than English for me, at any rate.

Cute. :)

Shawn Powers's picture

That's a cute analogy to the Free Software idea. One of the things that makes the distinction so difficult for people to see regarding software is that almost ALWAYS, the software doesn't cost anything either.

Like I've mentioned before, I do "get it" myself when it comes to the idea of Free Software. Since people can go and download so many open source programs for free, however, it makes for a subtle (albeit important) distinction.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

I tell people it's Free Software

tracyanne's picture

And that it often doesn't cost anything either. That usually gets their attention.

It makes sense

Anonymous's picture

it makes a lot of sense the answer you got...and the comparation with the "free software" makes no sense in my opinion. The 2 things are completely different :D