Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rates notice saga continues

The saga of our rates from Bass Coast Shire looks likely to continue for a while. I had another 'phone conversation with another lady from the Shire today.
Apparently the Shire data bank has our property listed as being in Glen Forbes (which is fine, I don't give a hoot where they say the property is). But I couldn't get an explanation from her why they can't send the rates notice to our postal address - which is Grantville.
Not hard I would have thought!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bass Coast Shire rates notice stuff-up

It's that time of year when council rates notices are sent out and it's always interesting seeing how much the local council wants to take out of our pockets. But this year we don't know - yet. Here in Bass Coast Shire we don't get much for our rates - so maybe this year they've decided to give our farm a rate holiday.

The rates notice hasn't arrived!  Unfortunately I don't think they are being generous. Last year, for some inexplicable reason, they decided that our rates notices should be sent to Stanley Road, Glen Forbes (which doesn't exist) instead of our real address in Grantville with a 3984 postcode.

I had a conversation today with a very pleasant lady from the Shire - but it didn't resolve anything. Why on earth do they have to fiddle.  Grantville has been our address for around 30 years. But we are happy not to receive rates notices - as long as they don't expect any penalties for late payment.

Wonder how long this will take to sort out !!!!

Enforcement of European cage laws may begin in the New Year

THIRTEEN member states have been warned they face legal action because of their failure to comply with the imminent EU barren battery cage egg ban.

EU Health Commissioner John Dali has told Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that letters have already been sent to those member states that have made ‘little or no effort’ to conform to the new laws, informing them they will be taken to court.

Mr Dalli also confirmed that Commission inspection teams are ready to go ‘all out’ from January 1, when the ban on conventional cages comes in, to collect the evidence of non compliance to back up prosecutions when they go to court.

The 13 member states already in breach of new rules are: Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the Netherlands.

The European Commission has been heavily criticised for its failure to take firmer action to force member states to comply with the ban and to prevent trade in illegally produced eggs between member states after January 1.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon welcomed comments by the Commissioner at a recent meeting.

Mr Lyon said Mr Dalli had given him a guarantee that there would be no extension of the January 1 deadline, no derogations and ‘no escape route for those who have failed to comply’.

“I was pleased to hear that infringement procedures have already been started against member states that have chosen to flout the law and that EU inspectors are poised ready to gather evidence against them from the start of 2012,” he said.

“I hope the tough action he is taking will send a message to those countries who think that they can get off the hook by turning a blind eye that they better think again and get their hen houses in order.”

The UK Government has also been criticised for not doing more to protect domestic producers from illegally produced egg imports. Farming Minister Jim Paice said earlier this month that the UK could not enforce a unilateral ban due to the ‘very significant legal and practical implications’ and practical difficulties in implementing it.

Instead the UK will be relying largely on a voluntary food industry ban to keep illegal produce out of the country, or at least force them into the lower value processing sector.

Mr Lyon urged the Commission to ‘back to the hilt’ countries like the UK who he said are using ‘every means at their disposal to try and ban illegally produced eggs from entering their markets’.

“If that type of action is taken by all countries that are compliant it should hit hard at the pockets of illegal producers and force them to get out or upgrade,” he said.

NFU Scotland vice president of John Picken was unimpressed by the Commission’s belated actions of ‘sending letters and preparing teams to go out for inspection after the deadline has passed’. He called on the Commission and the UK Government to take a ‘stronger stance’ on enforcement of the regulations.

“We are days away from Scottish producers finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage as a result of complying with standards set by Europe. And once again the deeply disappointing message to industry is that Commission deadlines, and threats of infringement proceedings, are largely ineffectual,” he said.

“Scottish farmers who have complied in good faith ahead of the deadline face a competitive disadvantage, having borne the significant cost of moving to an enriched cage, barn or free range system.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

FRFA response to Egg Corp's carbon claims

The Free Range Farmers Association agrees with the Australian Egg Corporation that eggs have a lower carbon footprint that any other source of protein, but points out the inaccuracy of assertions that cage egg production is more carbon friendly than free range production.

Grain consumption, energy inputs and transport costs are recognised as the main contributors to the carbon footprint of the egg industry.

The Australian Egg Corporation claims that data prepared for it by consultants, using figures from three egg producers, shows that free range egg production has a higher carbon footprint that cage production – but it does not have the facts to back up this assertion.

It has not revealed any information about the carbon footprint of the infrastructure on intensive farms – the hundreds of cubic metres of concrete, massive shedding etc., or the costs of transporting feed grain from interstate and the transport costs of sending eggs all over Australia.

It has has based its claims on a desk-top review of three selected egg farms in an effort to discredit the free range egg industry.

However, a two year sustainability study of five free range egg farms in the Port Phillip & Westernport Catchment Management Authority area of Victoria showed clearly that feed input costs decreased with lower stocking densities.

One outcome from the nutrient balance figures obtained in that study was that feed consumption increased with stock density. This implied that reliance upon pasture as a feed source decreased as stock density increased.

This table demonstrated the comparative feed inputs.


Lay rate
Feed consumption
Stocking rate
Grantville
70%
26kg/hen/yr
9 DSE/ha
Labertouche
65%
35kg/hen/yr
30 DSE/ha
Poowong
80%
45kg/hen/yr
44 DSE/ha
Myrniong
65%
48kg/hen/yr
75 DSE/ha

With a stocking rate of 9 DSE (Dry Sheep Equivalent), feed input was just 26kg a year per hen - about 70 grams of feed a day. With a stocking rate of 75 DSE, feed input almost doubled to 48 kg – about 130 grams per day.

The Australian Egg Corporation allows stocking densities on its accredited 'free range' farms of over 300 DSE.

The study was conducted by an independent agronomist for the Free Range Farmers Association and was funded by the Federal Government's Envirofund program.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Egg Corp carbon claims don't add up

The AECL claims that new research suggests that freerange egg production has a higher carbon footprint than cage egg production. We all agree that eggs provide the lowest carbon footprint of all the main protein foods. Egg Corp Managing Director, James Kellaway, said the research was another good reason for consumers to include eggs as part of their daily diet.
“This study has highlighted some surprising results, including suggesting that the humble egg is now the highest quality protein food with the lowest emissions.
But the research also highlighted that there is still scope for refinements to current practices in egg production to allow further reductions in emissions.
AECL wishes to conduct further studies on this important topic,” Mr Kellaway said.
“With greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions front of mind for many, this research provides consumers with the information they need to help reduce their carbon footprints when buying foods,” he said.
The research project, conducted by Steve Wiedemann and Eugene McGahan (and commissioned by AECL), used Life Cycle Assessment to study the GHG emissions from three egg farms over one year.
The researchers also found that:
  • Cage production delivered a lower carbon footprint than free range egg production
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from cage egg production was 1.3kg of CO2-e per kg of eggs (carbon dioxide equivalence, including methane and nitrous oxide)
  • Emissions from free range egg production was found to be 1.6kg of CO2-e per kg of eggs
  • Australian egg production had a lower carbon footprint than several European egg studies (mainly due to the more efficient grain production in Australia)
  • The largest carbon impacts in the supply chain were: feed grain production, then manure management and energy use at the layer farm
  • Free range egg production’s carbon footprint was found to be about 20% higher than caged production due to the fact that it uses more feed per kilogram of eggs produced compared to the feed efficiencies of cage egg production. 

For a copy of the research, please contact AECL Communications Manager, Kai Ianssen, on (02) 9409 6909 or kai@aecl.org.
This was a desk-top review of existing data and did not involve any new research. Previous findings have demonstrated clearly that grain feed consumption increases significantly as stocking density increases. So of course highly intensive farms - which are almost certainly the type selected for this 'research' will have demonstrated a high carbon footprint. The intensive farms are more likely to bring feed in from interstate, and will also transport their eggs over vast distances - increasing their emissions compared with traditional free range farms which are more likely to utilise local feed supplies and distribute their eggs within the local region.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sustainable food directory planned for Australia

A directory of sustainable food producers in Australia, including Farmers Markets etc will be up an running from February. Here's a link to the project.
http://www.localharvest.org.au/

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Times of India rant on 'free range' eggs

Here's a piece from the Economic Times, the Sunday supplement of the Times of India. They don't like what's happening to their egg industry either!!!!!
 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/11063496.cms

Friday, December 09, 2011

Closure of an abattoir in gippsland

Here's a plea from a mate, Gordon Rouse, about the way a small family-owned abattoir was closed down because of the totaly illegal and unacceptable actions of one employee.

Last week saw the free-range animal industry in Victoria take a huge beating. The tragedy began when an abattoir worker in Trafalgar broke the trust invested in him by 'torturing' a pig.

The ordeal could have easily ended there, with worker dissmissed and charged for cruelty to animals, and the abattoir owner paying a fine (a donation to an animal charity) for failing in their duty as managers. Such an outome would have been just and fair in most peoples eyes. Instead, the abattoir has been forced to close, terminating the employment of all its staff and putting the livelihoods of several small free-range producers, and local businesses at stake.

On Saturday 3rd of December, the CEO of Primesafe was quoted as saying he would shut down the business, even though the investigation his company was conducting was imcomplete. A few days later, the abattoir owners relinquished their licences and the business was closed indefinitely. While the family owners cannot comment on what made them choose to relinquish their license, CEO of Primsafe - Brian Casey was quite happy to deny any responsibility in forcing the business to close when interviewed on the 7:30 report.

Based on comments made earlier, the closing of the abattoir was certainly an outcome Primesafe desired.

Why would Primsafe desire such an outcome?

A few weeks ealier we read in the paper about a chicken processing plant in eastern Melbourne, where chicken carcasses were being innapropriately stored, workers were getting injured and killed, and casual labourers being grossly underpaid. When did Primsesafe CEO Brian Casey make a statement that this factory ought to be closed?

If local food is to remain viable, we need small abattoirs that service the direct-to-consumer meat industry. Naturally we want these abattoirs to operate humanely, but they need to be given as much right to a second chance as larger abattoirs. Shutting down small abattoirs is a step backwards for the humane treatment of animals and a blow in the head for local food.

If you want to support the family and the town of Trafalgar, you can register yourself as a member of the facebook group "Community support for LE Giles & sons". I warn you that some views expressed on this page are regrettable, but should be seen in the light of the anger the abattoirs closure has caused.

You may wish also write to local Victorian state members of parliament.

There are two aspects to this issue that should warrant review:

1./ The action of Primesafe CEO Brian Casey in making comments while the matter was under investigation, a luxury not available to the business owners.
2./ The non-transparent nature by which a business is forced to reliquish its abattoir license.

Seeing past the issue of animal cruelty is an issue of injustice to a local community and the destruction of a decent food industry. The actions of Primesafe have punished the innocent with the guilty, and surely this a grave injustice also?

Egg Industry Strategic Planning Workshop gives food for thought

Many egg producers will have received a copy of the workshop report following the AECL meeting in Tassie last month. They will have noted the following details – but for those who haven't received a copy, this might help. It makes interesting reading.

Apparently, many participants at the workshop agreed that industry credibility was the highest strategic priority for the Egg Corporation – which makes many producers wonder why the Egg Corp. is trying to undermine confidence in the free range sector with its determination to adopt a new standard which has no science behind it.

Some of the key points in the report which makes us smile (or want to throw things) are:

AECL Action

A credible egg industry will be delivered through the development, adoption and enforcement of Egg Standards Australia ( ESA). ESA must have integrity, it must be a national standard, third party audited and established and enforced at 'arms length' from the egg industry.. Key ESA requirements (hen welfare and food safety) should be supported by independent science (eg maximums for birds per hectare in free range systems and enforced). Development of ESA will be an ongoing and iterative process, The QA program's status and requirements must be communicated by AECL through the state farmers organisations and in local meetings with egg producers.

AECL must work with the egg industry to deliver traceability truth-in-labelling and drive substitution out of the the system.

Elimination of substitution might be one KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for the next strategic plan. Achieving a single customer and producer agreed QA system might be another.

Industry Cohesion and Unity

We require an industry that is internally and externally conhesive and united, one that develops appropriate partnerships and nurtures its members.

An internally cohesive industry is one where there is unity on policy positions, there are agreed standards and egg producers adhere to them.

The egg industry needs to appropriately position itself in the animal welfare debate. It must 'get stuck in' be proactive and form relationships with advocacy groups so that collaboration informs elements of the welfare, code and standards debates and target debates that are relevant and winnable. Egg producers need an industry and an AECL that understands commercial reality, the benefits and costs of entering policy debates, what influences consumers and what does not and has the wisdom to stay away from internally divisive and unproductive issues.

The Egg Corporation has a great deal to learn about developing industry cohesion, unity, nurturing its members, developing standards which meet member expectations and what 'commercial reality' actually means.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Freeranger Eggs is now accredited as part of the Humane Choice program

We are now accredited by the Humane Society International's Humane Choice program. We think it's important to ensure that there is a credible certification system which is recognisable across Australia to combat the misinformation being peddled by the Australian Egg Corporation.
Consumers are already being mislead by the labelling of eggs as 'free range' which have been produced on intensive farms - and that will get worse if AECL succeeds in getting its new standards accepted.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Australian Government swallows Egg Corp con

According to the latest letter from the Australian Government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (dated 24th November 2011), the Department accepts the bluster from the Australian Egg Corporation that the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry does not specify an upper limit on stocking densities for free range hens. In reality, the Model Code makes it clear that 1500 birds per hectare is the maximum density for free range egg laying hens, but higher densities may be permitted for meat birds if continuing fodder cover can be maintained. The Code is perfectly clear. A maximum density of 1500 birds per hectare is in place for egg laying hens designated as 'free range'. That has been used as the standard for many years - even by the AECL for its Egg Corp Assured program.
But the issue may be resolved by the Ausralian Competition and Consumer Commission. Formal complaints have been lodged by a number of organisations, including the Free Range Egg & Poultry Association of Australa, and various individual egg farmers about the interpretation of the Model Code and the Egg Corp plans to allow increased stocking densities.