Monday, April 25, 2011

RSPCA standard not much better than the Egg Corp

The RSCPA's free range egg standards are almost as much of a consumer con as the current standards of the Egg Corp Assured program and the new standards being proposed by the Australian Egg Corporation.

At least the RSPCA imposes a maximum outdoor stocking density of 2,500 hens per hectare, if a rotational grazing system is able to maintain fodder cover.

The AECL acknowledges that under its current system, some farms are running up to 50,000 chickens per hectare.

Under the new version of the Egg Corporation standards, it proposes to limit stocking density to a maximum of 20,000 birds per hectare.

Both the AECL and the RSPCA allow beak trimming of birds.

The standards of the Free Range Farmers Association limit outdoor stocking density to 750 birds per hectare and beak trimming or de-beaking is prohibited.

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry only allows beak trimming as a last resort if other management methods have failed to prevent feather pecking or cannibalism in a flock. It imposes a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 birds per hectare, but does allow a higher level if pasture growth can be maintained. It doesn't specify an upper limit and it's that loophole which is exploited by some intensive farms and allows them to get away with massive overstocking. No-one enforces the requirements.


T Carter said...

The stocking density according to the RSPCA Outdoor standard provides for "a maximum of 2500 birds per ha of range area to be available to birds in outdoor systems
with rotational range access, where it can be demonstrated that birds access a well maintained sustainable range area."

Or where farms don't have a rotational range "a maximum of 1500 birds per ha of range area to be available to birds in outdoor systems
with no rotational range management strategies in place (i.e. a fixed range area)."

This is pretty good considering some 'free range' farms stock at 10,000 - 20,000/ha. I would still much rather buy from RSPCA Outdoor farm that has a stocking density of 2500 birds.

It is important to note this ONLY applies to Outdoor farms as per the RSPCA Standard:
"Note: RSPCA Standards do not require that hens have access to an outdoor range area. However,
where an outdoor range area is provided, the following additional Standards must be met."

freeranger said...

Thanks T Carter, But it's clear that the RSPCA standard is not a great improvement on Egg Corp Assured. Sure, the ECA standards on stocking densities and beak trimming etc are not being enforced but as a former egg industry auditor, I have no great faith that any of these standards are enforced.
At Freeranger Eggs, we have looked at all accreditation standards in Australia and we have found none that meets the standards we have for hen welfare, land sustainability and food safety.
RSPCA and other animal welfare schemes focus (understandably) on animal welfare aspects of production. But many of them allow beak trimming - we do not. They also allow feeding the hens with meat meal which may be derived from dead chooks - we do not.
They allow manufactured colouring additives to be included in the hen's feed to enhance yolk colour - we do not.
Their programs do not address farm sustainbability issues.
We have found that the accreditation and logo system is a load of nonsense because organisations such as the Free Range Farmers Association do not enforce their published standards