Thursday, August 17, 2017

Senate could extend its farm gate price enquiry to cover eggs

It's a pity that the current Senate inquiry into farm gate milk prices isn't extended to also cover the treatment of farmers in the egg industry. Political interference in the definition of free range eggs has created a massive platform for consumer deception and unfair competition. Ministers for Consumer Affairs got it wrong when they allowed an intensive stocking density for free range egg production. The Model Code of Practice recommended a maximum outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare but the Ministers approved a density of 10,000 hens without taking account of planning laws which treat intensive farming operations as feed lots with restrictive planning regulations. They also ignored rulings by Federal Court justices in cases of deceptive conduct over egg labelling. False assertions were made by major players in the egg industry that no maximum stocking density was set in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). The industry cobbled together an amended code which they peddled as the real thing and claimed that it showed no maximum stocking density. They included in the main body of their version of the code, an edited item from the Appendix which they said allowed unlimited stocking densities. The actual Appendix states at 2.1.4 “The maximum acceptable densities for free range birds For layer hens a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare.” Then it refers to meat birds.”Meat chickens, a proportionately higher stocking density than for layers may be used.” The intent is crystal clear but in their dodgy version of the code, the industry left out all references to ‘meat birds’. The plan was clearly designed to deceive Ministers and con them into accepting that the Model Code did not establish a maximum stocking density and to accept their arguments and those of the major supermarkets for a 10,000 hen per hectare density. The Senate could trawl through all the deception and bring some certainty to farmers and consumers.

Monday, August 07, 2017

intensive 'free range' law comes into effect on April 18 unless Federal Court intervenes or politicians see sense

Unless politicians change their minds ( or the Federal Court changes them), the ridiculous new labelling regulations for free range eggs will come into effect on April 18, 2018 – a year and a day after the Government published the new information standard allowing an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare. We have asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to test the validity of the intensive'free range' standard endorsed by politicians. A stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare is completely unsustainable and well outside the limits of acceptability by consumers or farmers. We forwarded the report by Melbourne University into the issue.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

We aim to get hundreds more free range egg farms started

There is huge demand in this country for more free range eggs, but consumers know that they can't trust labels on eggs found in supermarkets, especially after politicians approved a high density stocking rate which allows families to be ripped-off. Everyone can help to establish more genuine, small scale free range egg farms by supporting a programme of webinars demonstrating all the processes involved. The webinars will encourage hundreds more farms to be established all over Australia. Freeranger Eggs in South Gippsland and the Freeranger Club have run workshops in the past, but the webinars will reach far more potential egg farmers. The preparation of the webinars is being supporting by a crowd funding appeal. To help, click here

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Big producers 'conned' politicians over 'free range' standard

A report by Melbourne University in the Journal of Rural Studies shows how big producers in the egg industry pushed politicians to agree to the definition of 'free range' that suited their intensive businesses. Australia’s egg industry was able to “capture” the development of the national information standard, ensuring that “free range” was legally defined as industrial-scale free range, with the tacit support of Australia’s two dominant retailers, who had already set standards for “free range” eggs, which underpinned the industry’s proposed definition. The new national standard may still be tested in court as it does not meet findings in previous decisions by Federal Court judges, and may also breach planning laws which treat intensive animal husbandry as feedlots. Consumer Ministers have egg on their faces over their 'free range' decision. Ministers for Consumer Affairs got it wrong when they allowed an intensive stocking density for free range egg production. The Model Code of Practice recommended a maximum outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare but the Ministers approved a density of 10,000 hens without taking account of planning laws which treat intensive farming operations as feed lots with restrictive planning regulations. They also ignored rulings by Federal Court justices in cases of deceptive conduct over egg labelling. The issue could be taken to court for a ruling.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

$1 million penalty foir false egg labelling

A West Australian egg producer has to pay more than a million dollars after the Federal court revealed the penalty for selling eggs which were falsely labelled as free range Snowdale Holdings was found guilty more than a year ago but the penalty of $750,000 plus $300,000 costs has just been announced. The action was brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which said that the company sold 71% of its eggs as free range even though half the chickens on various properties probably never left their sheds This penalty is big enough to worry many dodgy producers who risk prosecution despite political attempts to protect them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New welfare standards for poultry

Public consultation on new welfare standards to replace the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, Domestic Poultry is expected to begin within two months. Animal Health Australia has been preparing the new standards for over a year, in consultation with a variety of major interest groups. Details are at http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/poultry this is part of the submission we will make to AHA: Chickens need to be allowed to follow their normal behaviour rather than be confined. Modern domestic chickens have the same characteristics and habits as the Red Jungle Fowl from which they descended. The Red Jungle Fowl range in small groups on the forest floor. They forage on the ground for seeds, fruit and insects, using their feet to scratch away leaf litter when searching for food. From animal behaviour website https://www.animalbehaviour.net/poultry On modern intensive cage egg laying properties,.chickens are kept in groups of 3–10 birds in cages with space allowances of 350-600 sq cm per bird(Mench and Keeling, 2001). Stocking densities vary around the world, 350 sq cm on average in the United States, to as high as 700-800 sq cm in Norway and Switzerland (Savage, 2000). Meat chicken sheds. These hold from 10,000–70,000 meat birds, housed on litter in either semi-enclosed or environmentally closed houses. Stocking densities vary from 30–50 kg live weight per square metre (Mench and Keeling, 2001). The social organisation differs in these systems but pecking orders emerge.In cages, there is a definite hierarchy established by pecking and threatening when the hens are placed in the cage, usually a few weeks before laying commences The social order in broiler flocks is relatively unimportant as they are generally processed at an age when the establishment of social stratification is just beginning (Siegel, 1984). Laying hens have complex interrelationships involving social rank, aggression, feeding behaviour and egg production (Mench and Keeling, 2001). In large groups kept together for some months, subgroups form and become restricted to an area. This means that birds can recognise their own group members and those of an overlapping territory. It was suggested that this territorial behaviour is important in large flocks as it reduces the numbers of conflicts when strangers meet (McBride and Foenander, 1962). It has also been shown that individuals are more dominant in the area where they spend most time. Thus in larger flocks, hens tend to live in neighbourhoods where they are well-acquainted (Craig and Guhl, 1969). Laying hens choose to feed close to each other when given a choice of feeding locations, which demonstrates the importance of social attraction (Meunier- Salaun and Faure, 1984). Hens that are in the same cage and in neighbouring cages synchronise their feeding. Chickens show socially facilitated feeding, in particular, they peck more at feed when they have company than when alone (Keeling and Hurink, 1996). Caged birds may exhibit some abnormal behaviour such as head flicks and feather pecking, i.e., pecking and pulling the feathers of other birds (Mench and Keeling, 2001). Feather-pecking may be a form of redirected ground pecking (Blokhuis, 1989). Experience in early life with ground pecking may influence pecking behaviour in later life (Blokhuis, 1991). The motivation for the redirection of ground-pecking happens when the incentive value of the ground is low, compared with the incentive value of pecking substrates (Bindara, 1969). In high-density situations, the birds and feathers make up a higher proportion of stimuli relative to the litter area. It is possible that the birds may perceive the feathers as dust and that may cause a redirection of ground pecking to feather-pecking (Hansen and Braastad,1994).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Egg industry workshops around Australia

The Australian Egg Corporation (Australian Eggs) is holding workshops for the egg industry around the country. Subjects being covered include:   Hen behaviour and beak treatment Egg Standards in Australia Salmonella intervention strategies and egg washing Water quality and biosecurity   Workshops will be held in Penrith NSW on August 1, Yass on September 5 and Taree on September 7, Geelong in Victoria on July 27 and Attwood on August 29 South Perth WA on September 19 Roseworthy SA on November 2.