Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What does free range mean - consumer survey

We'd like a few more responses to our survey on what free range egg buyers think they are buying. Earlier results have been collated and are published on this Blog, but we would like more input.
Recent egg substitution problems in the UK have shown that the problem is widespread. But in many parts of the world the real issue is that there is no real national definition of the term free range which means the same to you as it does to producers. It will help if we get a meaningful definition that means the same thing to everybody.
Please take a little time to respond with your thoughts about what “Free Range” means to you.
For example:
Do you think free range hens forage over pasture during most daylight hours?
Do you think there is a limit on the number of hens in one shed or on one area of land? If so how many hens and how large should the area of land be?
Do you think free range hens are de-beaked (or beak trimmed)?
Do you look for accreditation details on the label to ensure that the eggs you buy are really free range?
Is it OK to use lighting to extend daylight hours in free range sheds (to increase the numbers of eggs laid) ?
Do you buy free range eggs because: they taste better; more humane treatment of animals; or some other reason?
Where do you buy your free range eggs; from a supermarket, health food shop, local store, direct from a farm or do you have home delivery?
Please write as much or as little as you like on each topic and feel free to add any additional thoughts.
Email address: freeranger@dcsi.net.au
website: www.freeranger.com.au

Monday, March 26, 2007

Meat that glows in the dark!

I was rather surprised last night when feeding our dogs to notice that several bones and pieces of meat were glowing with little pinpricks of light all over them. It would have been easy to jump to the conclusion that the meat was radioactive or had been contaminated with phosphorus, but then I remembered that such glowing is caused by the harmless Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria. It's just a sign that the meat has probably passed its use by date!
It would be interesting to see how much of the meat we consume actually glows - but most of us will never know as we normally prepare our meals with the lights on.

Freeranger back to South Gippsland Farmers' Market

The South Gippsland Farmer's Market at Koonwarra was one of the first genuine farmers' markets in Victoria offering only produce direct from the farmer to the customer.
It's success has been a result of sticking with local producers and offering food that is always fresh and which has a regional variation to make the market unique.
Many markets in Victoria have stallholders from all over the State, which makes a mockery of any claims that the produce being offered is local to the area in which it is being sold. Often the same stalls sell products made in factories or in commercial kitchens from produce bought at normal wholesale fruit and vegetable markets - hardly what Farmers' Markets are supposed to be about.
The attraction of the real Farmers' Markets is the regional variation - there's no point in going if you can get the same stuff everywhere!
We were one of the original farm stalls when the market started at Koonwarra and we are returning for the Easter market held at Koonwarra on Saturday April 7.
We are very pleased to be coming back to Koonwarra because we always felt it was a great market. We unfortunately had to make a commercial decision to stop going to Koony because of eggs being brought in from interstate which reduced demand for the local product. There were also consumer health issues with illegal eggs being sold by backyard operators using secondhand cartons and with no food safety programs in place.
It looks like the situation has now been resolved.
We are also now selling our eggs at the Kongwak market on most Sundays.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Strzeleckis in jeopardy

It's hard to understand the motives of some people in underming actions which can generate a huge environmental and community benefit. But John Gunson, the current chairman of the South Gippsland Conservation Society appears to be hell-bent on derailing the agreement between Hancocks, the Victorian Government and the Community.

Why? We have no idea, but hopefully he will be in touch to expain!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Strzelecki forest deal may be drawing to a close

My post last November about the deal struck between the Victorian Government and the US logging group Hancocks may have been a little premature. The company seems to be going out of its way to stuff up the deal!
Have a look at this site.
Hope they wake up to themselves before it all falls in a heap!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Featherless Chickens - where will the mad scientists go next?

The creation of featherless chickens must seem like a dream come true for KFC and all involved in the huge broiler chicken industry. Apparently after years of research, scientists are just about ready to launch the featherless chicken onto the market.
Here's part of a report from the World Poultry magazine:
'In 1954, the American researchers Abbott and Asmundson found several featherless
mutants among New Hampshire chicks that hatched at the University of California
at Davis. The mutation, named “Scaleless”, has been bred and maintained since then in
Davis and in several other research institutions.
The Scaleless line, like its New Hampshire origin, is, according to Prof. Cahaner “a good egg-producer but with a small body and not much of a meal.”
Prof. Cahaner started 12 years ago to pursue his interest in the “naked neck” and “frizzle” genes that reduce the feather coverage of chickens, and a few years ago he came across the idea of
using the scaleless mutant to breed a completely featherless broiler. In an interview
with World Poultry, he said that the idea was to backcross the small scaleless chickens
into a large, fast-growing broiler line in order to develop, “featherless broiler chickens
which grow as fast as the commercial feathered-covered broilers that reached the
marketing weight of 2-2,5 kg in just six weeks.” He noted that intensive breeding of
fast-growing broilers started some 60 years ago. “Twenty years ago broilers reached the
marketing weight at about 9 weeks. Today, broilers reach that stage after six weeks,
which has an enormous economic advantage
The featherless broilers created by Prof. Cahaner have apparently been bred using conventional crosses between scaleless chickens and commercial broilers, followed by backcrossing and selective breeding. “We did not employ any genetic engineering procedures in breeding the featherless broiler. The skin of the naked chicken is a normal skin, but
with no feather follicles and no subcutaneous fat”, Cahaner noted. The Israeli geneticist
added that in the late 1970s, featherless broilers were bred and evaluated at
the University of Connecticut but, he explained, “these broilers did not grow as fast
as commercial broilers do today and for them overheating had not yet emerged as a
serious problem, hence they were not considered useful at that time,” as he was quoted
in The New York Times
Don't know about you, but it looks like a crock to me!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bass Coast Shire stuffing up again

It is always a problem looking at the way services are delivered to ratepayers but Bass Coast Shire has to be one of the most pathetic community adminstrators in Australia.
There are a heap of problems, but one is the 'maintainance' of roadsides. Stanley Road, in Grantville is a great example. After various surveys, it was designated as one of the most significant roadsides in the Shire. But Council allowed a contractor to slash and destroy a swath of native vegetation on both sides of the road without any consultation with adjoining lanholders.
The result is a continuing fire hazard and a loss of habitat for Blue Wrens and a variety of other species.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

On-farm biodiversity is the key to success

We have always believed that the maintenance of on-farm biodiversity is the key to having a long term, sustainable business. It is becoming ever more certain that more extreme weather conditions, as part of emerging climate change will make it difficult for farmers to sustain highly specialized production.
A US study has calculated that diverse, synergistic farms can be profitable and simultaneously benefit the environment. Some farmers are successfully experimenting with biodiversity.
Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms near Swoope, Virginia (US) has developed a rotational grazing production system featuring pastures containing at least 40 varieties of plants and numerous animal species. Salatin’s farm uses little fossil fuel, yet the farm is highly productive. The 57-hectare farm annually produces 30,000 dozen eggs, 10,000 to 12,000 broilers, 100 beef animals, 250 pigs, 800 turkeys, and 600 rabbits.
Production at the Freeranger Farm is not that large, but the principles are similar and we maintain a balance with our natural ecosystems. Sustainability is what we are about.
Farming systems that are less energy intensive, more flexible in the face of unstable climates, and that produce a variety of products are likely to be the future of agriculture. When farms convert from monocultures to more diverse operations, net farm income can increase by as much as 108% while generating significant environmental and social benefits. Specialised, intensive and industrialised production methods are not as efficient as some 'experts' have been telling us.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Drought is still an Aussie Problem

The farm is still in the midst of drought. I've never seen the paddocks so dry and I'm just so thankful that we sold off most of our cattle eighteen months ago.
If we had tried to keep them, we would be in such financial strife because the end is still not in sight.
An uncle of my wife always used to say that he couldn't sleep at night unless he had three years of hay in the shed. So the problems we are having now are not new!
The drought keeps pushing up the cost of grain which means we have to increase the price of our free range eggs - but at some point it seems likely that we won't have any water for the hens or for us. Our tanks have around 40,000 litres left - so we are anxiously looking at the sky (and the barometer) for any signs of rain.