Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cage farmer slams AECL 'free range' proposal

Opposition to the Egg Corporation's insane 'free range' plan comes from some strange places. NSW egg producer, Bede Burke (who is President of the Egg Group of NSW Farmers Federation) has now voiced his concerns.

Until recently his comments suggested that he fully supported the plan to allow a massive increase in stocking densities for 'free range' flocks. But at last he has recognised that the change is likely to have drastic implications for the whole industry.

In an article in The Land he said free-range hens were increasingly housed in congested sheds with minimal room to range outside.

Pressure for the industry to produce more free-range eggs, and the high costs associated with running free-range operations, had encouraged some intensive and "Mickey Mouse" operations.

He feared all farmers and retailers were at risk of being tarnished by a sales boom backlash if common sense did not prevail among opportunistic producers, and supermarket executives who were championing free-range ahead of caged eggs without acknowledging the production facts.

Bede, has 110,000 layers on his cage farm near Tamworth.

He said the free-range egg sales rise was a great result for his industry, but consumers should not be pressured into thinking it was the only way to ethically produce eggs.

"My hens don't die in heatwaves or cannibalise each other, or sit on eggs for days. We don't have flies, dust or parasites in our sheds; we don't need to secondary beak trim, and we have no problems getting labour to work here.

"Australia is lucky to have affluent consumers who can choose to pay extra if they don't want eggs from caged hens, but that doesn't mean alternative production methods aren't just as ethical or carbon emission friendly - or more so."

It's great to get some recognition from a major player in the industry that the Australian Egg Corporation draft 'free range' standard could damage the whole industry if it is implemented.

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