Monday, December 24, 2012

Keep pressure on the Egg Corp

The Australian Egg Corporation's decision to withdraw its application for a certification trade mark for its proposed Egg Standards Australia quality assurance program demonstrates that it knew the new standard would not be accepted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. It represents total victory for free range egg farmers across the country – as well as for consumers.

This is a huge win. If the new standard had been implemented it would have seen a growth in massive highly intensive egg farms with 20,000 hens per hectare becoming industry practice. The current maximum density accepted by the most in the industry and endorsed in the preliminary decision of the ACCC, is 1500 hens per hectare.

But AECL hasn't given up totally. It has started the process of registering a standard trademark for its Egg Standards Australia proposal which would allow it to side-step the ACCC as this type of trademark does not need ACCC approval.

Having conducted a major investigation into the egg industry, the ACCC is well placed to launch prosecutions of egg farms which practice misleading and deceptive conduct. Last week's announcement that Pepe's Ducks was fined $400,000 for claims of 'open range' sent shockwaves through major producers in the egg industry.

The AECL may now wait to see how the new Coles supermarket 'free range' standard of 10,000 hens per hectare (due to be launched in January) is accepted. That may become the industry benchmark unless there is a consumer backlash.

Queensland has been the only state to enforce standards for free range hens with a maximum stocking rate of 1,500 hens per hectare, but it is believed that the Queensland Government has bowed to pressure from the egg industry lobby and is about to change the regulation to allow a stocking density of 10,000 per hectare – in line with the Coles standard.

Friday, December 21, 2012

AECL backs down on its new high density standards

The Australian Egg Corporation has withdrawn its application for a certification trade mark for its failed Egg Standards Australia program. One AECL director has resigned - but many in the industry think that the whole Board should go and a restructure take place to properly represent the industry.
This is a great victory for free range egg farms across Australia.

Read the Egg Corp's statement here:
http://www.vision6.com.au/download/files/31381/1846707/MEDIA%20STATEMENT%20AECL%20withdraws%20CTM%20application%2021.Dec%202012%20FINAL.pdf

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Massive fine for consumer deception

The Federal Court has ordered by consent that Pepe’s Ducks Ltd pay $375,000 in civil pecuniary penalties and $25,000 in costs arising from statements made that its ducks were ‘open range’ and ‘grown nature’s way’, in circumstances where the ducks were raised in barns and were not allowed to spend any time outdoors.

http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1094597/fromItemId/142

It is expected that similar action will start in the New Year against some of the intensive 'free range' egg farms which are filling up the supermarket shelves.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New fence finished at last !

A new security fence around a  1 hectare paddock.
We have been trying to get a fence erected in one of the paddocks which houses a mobile shed with 200 Isa Browns - now at last it is finished. The fence is quite tall at 1.5 metres and with 4 inch mesh should present a secure boundary for Lill (the Maremma guarding that flock) to patrol.

Unfortunately we had to bring in the wire from the US, because there was nothing like it on the market here in Australia. We have since discovered a vaguely simiar product here, but it is not as high and has smaller mesh.

We installed a 14 foot gate to allow easy for the mobile shed if we need to move it to a new paddock.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Intensive 'free range' farms in operation

Is this your idea of 'free range'.

Major egg laying facilities have been built and are under construction in Australia in the hope that the high stocking density proposals of Egg Standards Australia will be implemented. It never occurred to the major players in the industry who control the Australian Egg Corporation that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would knock back their proposal.

Have a look at this video promoting the aviary 'free range' system:
http://vimeo.com/38071183
and this blurb which provides more detail.
http://www.bigdutchman.de/fileadmin/products/Gefluegel-poultry/en/NATURA_60_70_gb.pdf
http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/405340/farm-pride-foods-opens-in-bears-lagoon/

Egg stamping now mandatory in SA

All South Australian eggs must now be stamped with a unique identification mark of their producers, providing consumers with a ready means of determining origin and aiding in traceability.
All egg producers selling eggs must comply with the new code, which covers eggs and egg products.
Producers with less than 50 chickens don't have to be accredited as long as they don't sell their eggs to food businesses or at farmers' markets. The majority of eggs will be stamped with "SA," followed by a number to identify the farm.
To gain accreditation, producers need to contact Bioecurity SA, adopt a food-safety statement, comply with the new standards and pay an annual fee. The fees start at $175 for up to 1,000 hens and rise to $650 for 1,000 to 9,999 hens. Higher charges apply for larger farms.
It's a pity that the Victorian Government has delayed the impementation of egg stamping here because it's a good way to combat egg substitution problems.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hard to find real free range eggs

It's always been hard to find genuine free range eggs in Victoria but it is now even harder.

If your concept of 'free range' is that eggs are laid by hens that are not beak trimmed, that are run at a stocking density of 750 hens per hectare or less and that no manufactured colouring additives are allowed in the hens' feed – then you are up a gum tree unless you buy your eggs from us at Freeranger Eggs.

The only credible accreditation body which audited to those standards here in Victoria has relaxed its requirements.

It's a great disappointment to us, because we were proud to be part of an organisation which represented 'best practice' in free range egg farming in Australia, despite the big national push to allow intensive production methods. We will maintain the standards which our customers expect.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Egg Corp makes a loss in 2012

The Australian Egg Corporation Annual Meeting in Sydney today will be told about the difficult conditions faced during the year which resulted in an operating loss.

Operating income actually rose by 10.2% to $8.6 million (largely because of an increase in the number of chicks bought on which every commercial producer pays a levy). But the problem was that during the year, AECL decided to increase spending - and it went up 49.5% to $9.3 million.

So AECL has dipped into reserves to cover the shortfall.  Would have been much easier not to spend so much !!! I wonder how much is being paid in executive bonuses.

Friday, November 23, 2012

30,000 stocking density postcards delivered to ACCC

Complaints are still being lodged about plans by the Australian Egg Corporation to introduce a new standard which will allow farms running up to 20,000 to label their eggs as free range.

30,000 individual postcards of complaint have been delivered to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission protesting about the planned changes. Consumers and free range egg farmers have battled against the exploitation of the industry by corporate egg producers and have demanded that stocking densities for free range hens be capped at 1,500 per hectare.

http://humanechoice.com.au/media?mode=PostView&bmi=1143438

To ensure that the ACCC's final decision is similar to its interim judgement please make sure that your voice is heard before the end of this month.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Free Range on Sunrise

The Sunrise breakfast TV show on Channel 7 ran a great segment on free range eggs on Saturday. For those who missed it have a look at :
http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/weekend-sunrise/-/31143150/

Friday, November 16, 2012

More publicity against intensive egg plans

Here's part of an article about the ACCC decision published  in the South Gippsland Sentinel Times - our local newspaper:

A PRELIMINARY decision by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been welcomed by the free range sector of the Australian Egg Industry led by Phil Westwood of Freeranger Eggs at Grantville.

The ACCC says it plans to reject AECL’s application for a trade mark for new standards for egg production as it did not believe they would meet Consumer expectations.

Standards proposed by the Australian Egg Corporation were designed to decieve consumers and boost the profits of corporate egg businesses, while decimating family farms throughout the country Mr Westwood said.

He said this decision (by the ACCC) demonstrates the strength of opposition to the Egg Corporation's plans from within the industry and is likely to spark strong debate at the Egg Corp’s annual meeting in Sydney on November 29.

Of 1700 direct submissions only 7 supported the AECL plan.

Most of the proposed standards were acceptable to the industry and simply retlected existing production methods.

But the purpose of several of the standards which related specifically to the free range sector of the industry, was to allow intensive production facilities to lable the eggs they produce as free range in order to obtain a price premium from unsuspecting consumers.

Mr Westwood said the fundamental elements of the proposal allowed a maximum stocking density of up to two hens per square metre (20.000 hens per hectare), to keep young hens locked in sheds until they are about 25 weeks old (even though they usually start laying at 16 to 20 weeks of age). to have no restrictions on the beak trimming of hens and to keep the hens locked up if the weather its too hot, too windy, too wet or in any other way adverse’.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trade Mark Certification approval for Humane Choice

Congratulations to Humane Choice, a division of the Humane Society International, which has been granted a Certification Trade Mark by the ACCC - despite an objection lodged by the Australian Egg Corporation.

Humane Choice has passed a rigorous examination by the ACCC (unlike the Egg Corp which hasn't got past first base) to become the only accreditation body certifying all true free range livestock!
 

There are so many meaningless accreditation bodies around which don't bother to implement their own published standards. It's refreshing to find one that actually does what it says!!!!

In the egg industry here in Australia there are various 'accreditation schemes' but recent egg substitution scandals have demonstrated that the processes are often a scam.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

AECL's own support base turns against it

Here's an excellent article from today's issue of  The Land newspaper by Agricultural journalist Andrew Marshall:

EGG producers who expected to be adopting a new national trade mark for free-range certification are in limbo after a stern warning to their industry from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC questioned whether the trade mark was misleading.

It received more than 1700 submissions about free-range eggs most of them challenging the perceived high stocking capacity proposed for farms which qualified for free-range certification.

Many free-range farmers are cheering the ACCC’s announcement that it plans "not to approve" the trade mark because it considers the accreditation does not fit consumer expectations of free-range farming.

The producers had actively rallied opposition to the trade mark from animal welfare bodies such as the RSPCA and consumer group Choice, plus more extremist and vegetarian lobbyists including Voiceless and Animals Australia.

The new quality assurance certification issue could become a fiery topic at this month’s annual general meeting of the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL), which had told egg producers the trade mark should be rolling out by now.

Some bigger scale egg prodncers had been preparing their farms to sign up for accreditation which would allow up to 20,000 birds a hectare to roam in and around their housing area.

Free-range purists insist true accreditation should only allow about 1500 birds/ha and any heavier stocking density was not good animal husbandry.

They also feared the economic viability of smaller capacity farms would be eroded as more large scale cage egg producers switched to large scale free-range production.

Supermarket giant Coles has intensified retail pressure on the egg industry by declaring it will only sell free-range eggs under its house brand label from January, while also discounting its egg prices.

The Egg Corporation still hopes to salvage the trade mark, saying it will work with the ACCC to ensure certification is approved "for the benefit of consumers, industry and hen welfare’~ "We’re confident there is overwhelming evidence in favour of the new assessment’ said corporation managing director, James Kellaway.

He said the ACCC’s concerns related to only a few of AECL’s audit points and the industry could allay these concerns given the evidence supporting those specific points.

AECL went throngh a three year development process to produce the new program which includes 170 andit points for best practice production on farms.

But the ACCC claimed the proposed standards not only appeared misleading but also failed to meet other requirements in the Trade Marks Act.

"The strong public interest in this matter shows that consumers want clear and accurate labelling of eggs and the ACCC considers the Egg Corporation’s certification trade mark proposal may be misleading’ said ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court.

The proposed rules would allow eggs to be certified as free-range where outdoor stocking densities "are very significantly higher than existing standards and the flock management practice of beak trimming could also be routinely practised by certified farms’ she said.

The ACCC believed these practices and standards "do not accord with consumer expectations about the free-range egg production’~ Vocal Victorian free-range egg campaigner Phil Westwood described the ACCC’s initial assessment as "a great win for family farms and the free-range industry".

He said standards proposed by AECL were designed to deceive consumers and boost the profits of corporate egg businesses, while decimating family farms across the country.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Egg washing not necessary on a well managed farm

'Black Eggs' may be an industry term, but it is not something which normal people regards as acceptable.
Make up your own mind.
 http://www.poultryhub.org/2012/11/egg-washing-improving-efficacy-and-safety-to-optimise-profitability/

Saturday, November 03, 2012

ACCC decision will help family farms survive

The preliminary decision by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to reject the Australian Egg Corp's application for a trademark for its Egg Standards Australia proposal has been welcomed by the free range sector of the Australian Egg Industry.

The ACCC says it plans to reject AECL's application for a trade mark for new standards for egg producers as it did not believe they would meet consumer expectations.

Standards proposed by the Australian Egg Corporation were designed to deceive consumers and boost the profits of corporate egg businesses, while decimating family farms across the country.

It would have allowed intensive operations running up to 20,000 hens per hectare to classify their facilities as free range, providing unfair competition for farms which meet the currently accepted industry maximum standard of 1500 hens per hectare.

This decision demonstrates the strength of opposition to the Egg Corporation’s plans from within the industry and is likely to spark strong debate at the Egg Corp's annual meeting in Sydney on November 29.

The ACCC received a flood of objections to the proposed new standards from consumers as well as from egg farmers. There was a very successful coalition of interests led by the Free Range Egg & Poultry Association of Australia. It included animal welfare groups Humane Society International, RSPCA,  Voiceless and Animals Australia as well as the consumer advocacy group Choice.

The volume of submissions demonstrated total opposition to the proposed standards. Of 1700 direct submissions, only 7 supported the AECL plan (and many of those were probably AECL Board members or employees).

Most of the Egg Corp's proposed standards were acceptable to the industry and simply reflected existing production methods. But the purpose of several of the standards which related specifically to the free range sector of the industry, was to allow intensive production facilities to label the eggs they produced as free range in order to obtain a price premium from unsuspecting consumers. They did not make sense in terms of good animal husbandry, farm sustainability or in meeting consumer expectations.

The fundamental elements of the proposals allowed a maximum stocking density of up to 2 hens per square metre (20,000 hens per hectare), to keep young hens locked in sheds until they are about 25 weeks old (even though they usually start laying at 16 - 20 weeks of age), to have no restrictions on the beak trimming of hens and to keep the hens locked up if the weather is too hot, too windy, too wet or in any other way 'adverse'. The main impacts of the new standards if introduced by the Egg Corp would be serious implications for farm sustainability, truth in labelling, consumer expectations, unfair competition within the industry and issues of animal welfare.

The proposed Egg Standards Australia ignored many of the provisions in the current Model Code which sets the maximum stocking density on free range farms at 1500 hens per hectare (as confirmed by legal opinion), beak trimming is prohibited unless other methods of addressing feather pecking and cannibalism problems have been tried and failed, (such as appropriate selection of more docile strains of laying hens, reducing stocking density, better lighting management and feed control) and the hens must be allowed access to the outdoors once they are fully feathered (at about six weeks old).

There are no standards anywhere in the world that come close to the stocking density proposed by the Egg Corporation and there is research (ignored by AECL) which shows that it is unnecessary to trim the beaks of chickens.

The interim decision by the ACCC follows various recent examples of egg substitution. A South Australian producer was fined for labelling cage eggs as free range. A NSW producer has been caught out selling barn laid eggs as free range and in Victoria a free range farmer has been found to be importing non-accredited eggs from Queensland and selling them to unsuspecting consumers as eggs accredited to Victorian standards.

Contrary to false assertions made by the Egg Corporation, the Model Code does set a maximum stocking density. 1500 hens per hectare is specified as the maximum for laying hens, although an item quoted by AECL from the Appendix to the Code, does allow a higher density for meat birds. When it claims that a higher density is permitted for egg laying hens, what the Egg Corp carefully ignores are the words in the same Appendix 'When meat chickens use only some weeks of the 10 week cycle on pasture, a proportionately higher stocking density than for layers may be used.'

Friday, November 02, 2012

ACCC rejects Egg Corp's high density proposal.

The ACCC's initial findings on the Australian Egg Corporation plans to increase free range stocking rates to 20,000 birds per hectare have rejected the trade mark application.

The ACCC is concerned that the AECL Standards are inconsistent with consumer expectations and understanding of free range egg production. The ACCC is concerned that the use of the trade mark in the circumstances of such inconsist
ency has the potential to mislead or deceive consumers.


The ACCC does not believe that the Egg Corp Standard would meet consumer expections for free range.

Of 1700 submission, only 7 supported the AECL proposal (and most of those were probably AECL Board members and staff)

A great win for the free range sector of the industry and a kick in the teeth for the Egg Corporation.
More details here:
http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1087836/fromItemId/142

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Egg bargains this week

Our latest flock of pullets is laying like crazy, and as we don't have a market this weekend, we will have heaps of small eggs available this Friday and Saturday.
Come to the farm at the end of Stanley Road in Grantville between 10am and noon of Friday or Saturday and you can pick up trays of pullets eggs for just $3 a tray (two and a half dozen) and trays of 50+ gram eggs for $5 a tray.

AECL's enthusiasm on the wane

James Kellawy, managing director of the Australian Egg Corporation, missed an opportunity to push the Egg Standards Australia proposal for high density 'free range' egg production when he spoke at an International Egg Commission conference in London.

Could it be that he now accepts that the new standards are unaceptable to the community and the industry?
http://www.poultryinternational-digital.com/poultryinternational/201211_2/?folio=12#pg14

Saturday, October 27, 2012

AECL - the 'spin' isn't working

Here's a great interview on a WA radio station with Lynn MacLaren, the Green's MLC who introduced a free range egg bill to State Parliament. James Kellaway, Managing Director of the Australan Egg Corporation makes a real goose of himself trying to defend the Egg Corp's high density proposal. He even claims that if farmers are limited to 1500 hes per hectare then free range eggs will cost up to $15 a dozen! Utter nonsense and he knows it.

http://www.6pr.com.au/blogs/6pr-perth-blog/greens-hatch-freerange-bill/20121025-287h1.html

Friday, October 26, 2012

Shock for Australian Egg Corporation

The Australan Egg Corporation as well as corporate pork producers are now in serious damage control following the launch of the Animals Australia campign.

The Egg Corp has demonstrated that it doesn't care about real standards in the industry - it simply represents the interests of big business and tries to protect their corporate profits, and to hell with family farmers.

It time the Egg Corp Board started listening to us.
 http://www.makeitpossible.com/

The push for 'free range' must be more than just switching labels,which the Egg Corp is trying to do with its new Egg Standards Australia.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A day in the shed - welding

Apart from the usual egg collecting and checking on the hens, I spent most of today in  the machinery shed welding up skids for one of our mobile hen houses.

A new small flock of 200 pullets will arrive next month and I need to get everything ready for them. The nest boxes are OK but I need to do a bit of work on the hen house doors and I need a couple more feeders.

Everything will be in place by the time they arrive.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How long do hens live in cages?

People say some pretty dumb things. And James Kellaway, Managing Director of the Australian Egg Corporation often heads the list.
In his latest tirade against the onslaught on the cage egg industry he is quoted as saying   "Each of the three main egg farming systems has welfare strengths and weaknesses. For example, hens in cages are likely to live longer, be more healthy and are safe from weather and predators."
The reality is that hens in cages live just one year before they are turned into soup, fertiliser or stock feed.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/industry-fires-back-at-factory-farming-campaign-20121023-282m4.html#ixzz2A9vFz4Gq

Friday, October 19, 2012

Colouring additives in most of the eggs you buy


All major egg producers and most small ones - even those which claim to be free range - use colouring additives in the feed they give their hens.
It is completely unnecessary in a free range flock, as hens running on good pasture and at low stocking densities will obtain enough carotenoids from the green feed in the paddock to maintain good yolk colour. The colour will vary – depending on what each hen has been eating – but many egg producers want to use additives to provide consistent, bright yolk colour.

Many of those additives are synthetic - adding to the chemical cocktail mix in food. But even those which are claimed to be 'natural'  can present health problems. They may be derived from natural products but they are manufactured in factories – often in China.
Three of the most widely used egg yolk pigmenters are:

Canthaxanin or Canthaxanthin which appears to be an unsafe additive. It can cause violent diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, dry and itchy skin, hives, and other side effects such as breathing problems; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat; a skin rash or hives and is particularly dangerous for pregnant or breast-feeding women or people allergic to vitamin A or carotenoids.
Capsicum

Allergic reactions to capsicum may occur. People should stop eating eggs with capsicum-based colouring and seek emergency medical attention if they experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives.

Other less serious side effects have also been reported such as upset stomach; migraine; heartburn; diarrhea; or burning sensation in the mouth or throat.

Use of Capsicum is not recommended for pregnant women.

Marigold

Some people experience breathing problems, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat. A skin rash or hives may occur.




Sunday, October 07, 2012

'Free Range' farm busted in NSW

The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported today that a western  Sydney egg farmer has been fined for labelling "barn laid eggs" as "free range" during a statewide crackdown on misleading labels.

Glensung Pty Ltd, trading as Paul Galea and Son Egg Farm in Leppington, was fined $4620, after Food Authority inspectors found the company responsible for three breaches of the NSW Food Act.

The company’s eggs are supplied predominantly wholesale to Flemington Fruit Markets and independent fruit grocers in western Sydney.

Federal regulations stipulate that free-range hens must have easy access to an outdoor area to roam while barn-laid eggs are from chooks confined to a shed.

All food businesses must comply with the NSW Food Act 2003 which makes it an offence to falsely describe products.

The state government has started a statewide inspection of the industry to check eggs were correctly labelled.

The authority this year boosted its systems for tracing eggs back to the source to ensure retailers haven’t been misled.

Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said it was unacceptable to mislable any food product and the government will continue to protect the state’s food laws.

Over the next two years, the government will also roll out new requirements for all eggs produced in NSW to identify which farm they are from stamped on to the eggshell.

"This sends a clear message to the industry and consumers that the NSW government does not tolerate those who disobey the rules," she said.

"We have the capacity to ensure that eggs are correctly labelled in line with the national requirements and fines will he issued." Second generation egg farmer John Galea, 42, was disappointed with the decision to fine the company because the doors to Leppington barns were open and the chickens were free to "leave and go outside if they wanted to".

Mr Galea, who started working with father Paul on the eggs business when he was seven in 1977, said he would work with the authority to make sure there were bigger holes in his shed for the chickens to go outside.

"They said that’s not good enough for them so we will work with the Food Authority to make our barns suitable.

"We can’t produce enough eggs here, they sell out everyday. We mill our own grain and the eggs taste great.

"We’ve had that many dramas with the Food Authority, RSPCA and Animal Liberation, I’ll be more than happy when we can sell our land off for subdivision," he said.

NSW Farmers Egg Committee chairman Bede Burke commended the action.  He claimed "It’s only a tiny section of the entire NSW egg industry that acts dishonestly.

"The prompt action gives consumers confidence that this is a serious deterrent to producers who think they can get away with egg substitution." Mr Burke said. Unfortunately it's not 'a tiny section' of the egg industry which is acting dishonestly.

Monday, October 01, 2012

New pullets have settled in

Our latest batch of Isa Brown pullets has settled in, and the girls like their protector, Bella the Maremma (which is just as well) ! This is a flock of 350, or 340 now as we sold 10 to the Rhyll Trout Farm on Phillip Island.

We often sell off a few of point of lay pullets as long as we have enough for our own egg production. The plan is that this flock will start laying in a couple of weeks and will quickly get into full production to help meet demand. Then in November, a flock of 200 will arrive and hopefully we will be able to cope with demand over the December/January holiday period.

It's probably a forlorn hope, as demand always outstrips supply - especially if really hot weather kicks in early.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Egg Standards Australia delayed


The Australian Egg Corporation is still plugging away, trying to get its discredited Egg Standards Australia program up and running - but its timeline is now very short.
 
The AECL Board has missed every deadline set for introducing the new standard, and it doesn't look like it will meet its latest September deadline!
 
It will make for an interesting Annual Meeting in Sydney in November if the program isn't in operation before then.
 
As all egg producers know, the Scottish Agricultural College denied claims by the Australian Egg Corporation that its research backed Egg Corp plans for free range stocking densities to be lifted to 20,000 hens per hectare.

Dr Victoria Sandilands, head of the SAC's Avian Science Research Centre said: “If AECL think that 20,000 hens/hectare is acceptable outdoors, then it would be too far a stretch to say this is based on our work. This alteration would need considerable research on what is acceptable outdoors to back it up.

The research involved placing different numbers of hens in pens inside a windowless room to check on patterns of behaviour.

It concluded that any space allowance of less than about 5000 cm2 per hen imposed at least some
constraint on free expression of behaviour.

Far from suggesting that this meant that 2 birds per square metre was an acceptable outdoor density – it meant that stocking density in cages and sheds should be no more than 2 birds per square metre instead of the currently allowed 14 - 15 birds per square metre.
 
If the Egg Corp interprets the Scottish research accurately, it will throw the industry into chaos.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Food security nightmare


Adapted from an article by Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute

Food security is emerging as a massive threat to the world’s population. Unsustainable farming practices are making the problem worse.

At a time when the world’s farmers are facing a record growth in food demand, they continue to wrestle with the traditional threats to production such as soil erosion. But now they are also looking at three new challenges on the production front. One, aquifers are being depleted and irrigation wells are starting to go dry in 18 countries that together contain half the world’s people. Two, in some of the more agriculturally advanced countries, rice and wheat yield per acre, which have been rising steadily for several decades, are beginning to plateau. And three, the earth’s temperature is rising, threatening to disrupt world agriculture in scary ways.

The countries where water tables are falling and aquifers are being depleted include the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States. World Bank data for India indicate that 175 million people are being fed with grain produced by overpumping. My own estimate for China is that 130 million people are being fed by overpumping. In the United States, the irrigated area is shrinking in leading agricultural states such as California and Texas as aquifers are depleted and irrigation water is diverted to cities.

Second, after several decades of rising grain yields, some of the more agriculturally advanced countries are hitting a glass ceiling, a limit that was not widely anticipated. Rice yields in Japan, which over a century ago became the first country to launch a sustained rise in land productivity, have not increased for 17 years. In both Japan and South Korea, yields have plateaued at just under 5 tons per hectare. China’s rice yields, rising rapidly in recent decades, are now closely approaching those of Japan. If China cannot raise its rice yields above those in Japan, and it does not seem likely that it can, then a plateauing there too is imminent.

A similar situation exists with wheat yields. In France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—the three leading wheat producers in Europe—there has been no rise for more than a decade. Other advanced countries will soon be hitting their glass ceiling for grain yields. Australia is no exception

The third new challenge confronting farmers is global warming. The massive burning of fossil fuels is increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, raising the earth’s temperature and disrupting climate. It is now in a state of flux. Historically when there was an extreme weather event—an intense heat wave or a drought—we knew it was temporary and that things would likely be back to normal by the next harvest. Now there is no “norm” to return to, leaving farmers facing a future fraught with risk.

High temperatures can lower crop yields. The widely used rule of thumb is that for each 1-degree-Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum during the growing season farmers can expect a 10-percent decline in grain yields. A historical study of the effect of temperature on corn and soybean yields in the United States found that a 1-degree-Celsius rise in temperature reduced grain yields 17 percent. Yet if the world continues with business as usual, failing to address the climate issue, the earth’s temperature during this century could easily rise by 6 degrees Celsius.

In recent years, world carryover stocks of grain have been, only slightly above the 70 days that was considered a desirable minimum during the late twentieth century. Now stock levels must take into account the effect on harvests of higher temperatures, more extensive drought, and more intense heat waves. Although there is no easy way to precisely quantify the harvest effects of any of these climate-related threats, it is clear that any of them can shrink harvests, potentially creating chaos in the world grain market. To mitigate this risk, a stock reserve equal to 110 days of consumption would produce a much safer level of food security.

Although we talk about food price spikes, what we are more likely starting to see is a ratcheting upward of food prices. This process is likely to continue until we succeed in reversing some of the trends that are driving it. All of the threatening trends are of human origin, but whether we can reverse them remains to be seen.

As food supplies tighten, the geopolitics of food is fast overshadowing the geopolitics of oil. The first signs of trouble came in 2007, when world grain production fell behind demand. Grain and soybean prices started to climb, doubling by mid-2008. In response, many exporting countries tried to curb rising domestic food prices by restricting exports. Among them were Russia and Argentina, two leading wheat exporters. Viet Nam, the world’s number two rice exporter, banned exports entirely in the early months of 2008. Several other smaller grain suppliers also restricted exports.
More about food security in Australia can be found here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dinner cruise on the Yarra

We went to the Fine Food Festival at Jeff's Shed in Melbourne yesterday and, as always, it was great fun looking at all the equipment and products which are available. But the highlight was after the show closed at 5pm- we went on a dinner cruise on the Yarra at the invitation of the Austrian Consul General.
The invitation came about because we won the Energy Globe Award for Australia earlier in the year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Help building our front fence

Students and teachers from the Victorian College for the Deaf in Melbourne returned to the farm yesterday to help collect eggs and lay out timber for our post and rail fence across the front of the property.

The rails and posts have been sitting in our front padock for ages, and we just haven't got around to doing it. Now all I have to do is dig the post holes and assemble the fence.
Some of the students and a teacher sorting out the fence posts.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Deaf students at the farm

We had a group deaf students on the farm yesterday to look at how we do things. We had a good time. The Victorian College for the Deaf does some great work. Have a look at their website:
http://www.vcd.vic.edu.au/

Thursday, August 30, 2012

WA jumps on shonky 'free range' egg farmer

The WA Planning Commission has endorsed a decision by Swan Valley Council to order a so-called 'free range' egg producer to reduce his flock numbers to meet permit conditions. They also ordered him to pull down sheds which were built without approval.
Amazing what some blokes think they can get away with! This farm was approved by the Australian Egg Corporation and was accredited to its Egg Corp Assured program - even though it breached permit conditions which are required to be checked during the audit process. Compliance with permit conditions is supposed to be a requirement of the Egg Corporation accreditation process - but this case demonstrates that as far as the Egg Corp is concerned ... anything goes until you are caught!
Here's a report:  http://www.inmycommunity.com.au/news-and-views/local-news/No-free-range-for-egg-man/7630332/

Monday, August 27, 2012

Support from a NSW blogger

Here's a link to a NSW blog which doesn't think much of the big boys in the egg industry.
http://megaphoneoz.com/?p=1861

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Egg stamping delayed in Victoria

The Victorian Government is giving egg producers two extra years before they have to comply with new Australia-wide egg- stamping requirements.

The delay has been welcomed by some egg producers but is condemned by others who saw the introduction of stamping as a good way to provide real traceability for eggs. It could help to restore confidence in an industry which has become dominated by shonky operators.

One of the arguments which some producers use is that the units cost around $30 000. But that is for sophisticated automatic ink jet systems installed on grading and packing machines. Simple 30 egg stampers are available at minimal cost to stamp a tray of eggs at a time, stampers for six at a time can be bought and individual stampers are available for very small operators.

The introduction of egg stamping will help make all eggs traceable through the supply chain - another step in eliminating egg substitution. Most egg producers support stamping - as long as it applies to everyone who sells eggs and is not just confined to those of us who do things properly! Backyarders generally have no understanding of food safety issues and are a real danger to the health of consumers. If they sell eggs, they should have to comply with the same regulations as the rest of us.

Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said the delay would help Victorian farmers.

"It would give them more time to plan for and install the costly equipment needed to apply an identification stamp to every single egg, as mandated under new national food standards." Mr Walsh said.

He announced the special measure as part of the Primary Industries and Food Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 currently before Parliament.

"Whole supply chain food safety traceability of eggs from the farm to the kitchen is already provided by labels on cartons," Mr Walsh said.

"In the kitchen, a carton will provide greater traceback than rummaging in the garbage sorting through cracked egg shells." The legislation provides for the implementation of the new national egg food safety standards in Victoria.

But there is a two-year exemption from the requirement for farmers to individually stamp their property identification details on each egg shell.

"Asking farmers to purchase new eggshell-inking machines is a significant cost imposition with no proof it will improve food safety," Mr Walsh said.

There is still no indication how the actual identification mark will be determined for each farm. For example will members of the Free Range Farmers Association be allowed to use the Association logo and their farm roll number? Or will the Government allocate a number to each farm?

Monday, August 20, 2012

YouTube videos helping the fight

The Free Range Farmers Association has posted a few videos on its You Tube channel which will help fight the Australian Egg Corporation's plans for the industry. We just hope we can get some Government ministers to take action rather than simply sit around letting major corporations continue with wth 'industry self-regulation' which does nothing positive for family farms or for consumers.

The FRFA channel is:
 http://www.youtube.com/user/Freerangefarmers?feature=mhee

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Australia's big egg producers could export rather than con consumers

Instead of disrupting the industry and trying to con consumers by culling hens to maintain higher prices and re-labelling intensively produced eggs as 'free range' why aren't Australia's major egg producers looking for marketing opportunities overseas?

America manages to do it. Egg exports from the United States are booming. In the month of June, table eggs exports were about 10 million dozen (up 67%) valued at $US8.1 million (up 54 %), thanks to larger shipments to Hong Kong and Angola. First-half table egg exports hit 49.6 million dozen (up 34%) valued at $US43.7 million (up 31%). Of the total, 79 percent or 39 million dozen were shipped to the top five export markets of Hong Kong, Canada, the U.A.E., the Bahamas and Angola.

Exports of processed egg products in June reached $11.3 million, up 20 percent over June 2011. Even though the export value to Japan decreased by 8 percent to $3.7 million, value of shipments to the EU increased by 42 percent to $US3.7 million, largely because of the lingering egg deficit in the EU. Cumulative export value of egg products in the first half of 2012 were $70 million, up 19 percent year-on-year. Exports to EU-27 increased by 120 percent to $26.7 million, accounting for 38 percent of U.S. total exports worldwide. Exports to Japan decreased by 25 percent to $21.8 million, accounting for 31 percent of U.S. total exports worldwide. While export value to South Korea decreased 24 percent year-on-year, export value to Canada and Mexico increased by 14 and 121 percent, respectively.

Total egg exports (table eggs plus egg products in shell egg equivalents) for the first half of 2012 were 122 million dozen, with an export value of $102.7 million, up 10 and 11 percent from the same period in 2011, respectively. Both export quantity and export value set annual records.

If the Yanks can do it, why can't our 'big boys' get off the backsides and get marketing !!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Guinea Fowl still making itself at home

The Guinea Fowl which appeared at the farm a little while ago is still here,  thinking that it is part of one of our flocks!
Trying blend in with the Isa Browns.
I'm not sure this is good biosecurity for the farm, but the Guinea Fowl seems happy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not only the American dream is in trouble

Greed and opportunism are widespread - it's not just corporate egg producers trying to con everyone.

This animation helps to demonstrate why whole economies are in deep strife!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=mII9NZ8MMVM&NR=1

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New biosecurity sign for the gate

We have just organised a couple of biosecurity signs for the farm. One will go on the front gate and one will be used at the next set of gates to indicate to people that although we welcome visitors, we need to know they are coming.

The risk of spreading a variety of diseases to our hens is serious, particulary if families have chooks at home or even pet birds in aviaries.

Although all our hens are vaccinated against the most likely diseases they may encounter, it would be dumb to take risks.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Channel 10 looks at our farm

Channel 10's morning program The Circle broadcast a segment on our farm yesterday. Aaron Wood came to he farm to check out what we do.
Have a look at:
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=340349432715959

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guinea Fowl came for a visit

The dogs and chooks kicked up a fuss today and we heard a strange noise in one of the paddocks.  A Guinea Fowl had come to visit!
We haven't seen one on the farm before and we have no idea where it's come from. Interesting bird, but it won't let me get close.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Treating the broken horn of a goat

Don't know how she did it, but Katie-Heidi, one of our Anglo-Nubian goats managed to break a horn a couple of days ago. I spoke to a mate who milks goats and has had them for years and he said to cut it off with embryotomy wire.
Like every good farmer, I had some in the shed, so I enlisted the help of my son Bryan and while he held poor Katie-Heidi, I cut off the offending horn.
Here' s a before shot:
And here's after surgery:
Tonight she came running up the driveway for feed to do battle with the chooks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Our oldest maremma, Manola died today

Anne, with a frail Manola
Manola, the oldest Maremma on the farm, died today in the paddock with her sheep. I buried her close to the spot where she died, in the middle of the paddock and we will plant an oak tree alongside her.

She was a great dog who took her guardian work with the sheep very seriously. (She didn't care much about the chickens, but as long as her sheep were OK, she was happy).

Thunder disturbed her and she would often hide in a stable until the storm had passed. We thought she was going to die last year, when at 14, she had a urinary tract infection. Anne managed to fix that up with large doses of cranberry tablets, and we added cranberries to her diet most day since then.

She managed to last another year while she helped to train her understudy, Tora - who now has full responsibility for the sheep and the hens in her paddock.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lowlines help to keep the grass down

We now have a couple of lowline cattle to help with lawnmowing!!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Egg Corp set to thumb its nose at the ACCC

In an article in today's West Australian newspaper, James Kellaway, managing director of the Australian Egg Corporation, is quoted as saying that the Egg Corp will introduce its controversial Egg Standards Australia 'even if ' its trade mark application is knocked back by the ACCC.

If that's the case, why did it bother to lodge the application in the first place?
Read the full article here:
http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/newshome/14163730/producers-consumers-cry-foul-in-egg-fight/

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Refugee chooks doing well

600 hens from an egg farm in Tooradin - which was inundated by floodwater a couple of weeks ago are doing well here on the Freeranger farm.

We moved a couple of our old sheds into one of the paddocks and rigged some fencing around them and now they seem to be happy.
We don't know how long they will be here as refugees but it will probably be quite a while before they are able to go back home.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Egg Corp still trying to battle its way out of trouble

The Australian Egg Corporation has published another attempt to justify its Egg Standards Australia proposal.
It contains the mix of half truths and distortions which we have come to expect. Unfortunately some people believe them - thankfully not many in the industry and we hope that the ACCC won't be swayed like the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Government Ministers in NSW, Victoria and WA. Have a look at the document here   The AECL Statement has a number of inaccuracies.
  •  AECL did carry out some consultation with the industry, but it ignored recommendations and proposals which did not fit its agenda.
  •  The development process has not led to a well researched Quality Assurance program - there is little actual research which backs some of the proposed standards.
  • It is more than lobby groups which are opposed to the implementation of Egg Standards Australia, it is also individual farmers working in the free range sector of the egg industry across Australia. The proposed stocking density is not the only aspect of the standard which is unacceptable to farmers. Other issues which are enshrined in the current Model Code are also ignored in the new standards – such as allowing free range chicks to range in the open once they are fully feathered and not permitting hens to be beak trimmed as a first option.
  • There is no science behind the development of these standards for free range egg production. AECL has been unable to produce any evidence to show that its proposed stocking density is sustainable, that chicks should be locked in sheds until they are 25 weeks old (when currently they must have outdoor access from six weeks old) or the  beak-trimming at day old is an essential stock management tool.
  • The proposed standards have been designed simply to meet the requirements of the supermarket chains and  maximise the profits of major corporations. If allowed to be implemented, they will mislead consumers and bring the industry into disrepute.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Good publicity in Tassie

This is adapted from today's Hobart Mercury.
Consumer watchdog Choice is calling for a unified standard for free-range eggs, to ease customer confusion.

And animals rights groups are calling on the State Government to follow the lead of Queensland to ensure there are not too many chickens crammed into free-range farms.

With no official standard for free-range eggs, guidelines are needed so consumers know exactly what they are buying when they purchase free-range eggs. Choice spokeswoman Ingred Just said "consumers are at real risk of being misled by businesses wanting to cash in on the premium a free-range product attracts.

"There’s no official national standard for free-range eggs and the label on the carton can have any number of meanings, depending on the producer." Ms Just’s comments follow an application from Australian Egg Corporation Ltd to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission requesting 20,000 birds per hectare be regarded as free range 13 times more than recommended numbers.

The recommended number is 1500 birds per hectare.

Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White called on the Tasmanian State Government to follow Queensland’s lead.

It has legislated for a freerange standard of 1500 birds per hectare.

"This will prevent those in the industry who see free range as a commercial opportunity, rather than a welfare necessity, from profiting from unacceptably high stocking densities," she said.

Free-range eggs make up nearly 40 per cent of all supermarket egg sales in Australia.

Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green yesterday said the State Government was still waiting for some advice on the issue.

Golden Free Range owner Steve Pavlides yesterday said free range eggs had been a closed industry for too long.

Mr Pavlides welcomed a possible unified national standard.

"Customers need some more awareness." he said.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Floods cause havoc in West Gippsland

Only 12 stallholders (and not many more customers) made it to Churchill Island Farmers' Market on Saturday because the roads were cut by flood water from heavy rain on Thursday and Friday.

The South Gippsland Highway was closed at Tooradin and Lang Lang and many side roads were impassable. The only way for people to get from Melbourne was via Warragul - which turned a one and a half hour drive into three hours or more.

Worse than that, one of the members of the Free Range Farmers Association at Tooradin was flooded and we now have 300 of his chooks on our farm with another 300 coming tomorrow.  Refugees from the floods!

It was a bit of challenge getting sheds and a paddock ready - but not as much of a challenge as he faced.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Servicing the egg delivery van

I took the Holden Combo delivery van in for its 30,000km service yesterday. Booked it in to a Holden dealership.
The service salesman did his usual stuff and convinced me that apart from the basic logbook service,brake fluid should be changed and the airconditioning checked and re-gassed. All extra costs of course.

Then an hour or so later I had a call to say that they thought the wiper blades should be replaced - at an additional cost of $90 because now it's not just a matter of replacing the wiper rubbers - the wiper arms come as a unit and the whole lot has to be changed. Anyway, I was a bit busy so I said OK.
My meeting finished earlier than expected, but the van wasn't scheduled to be ready for collection until 2 pm. I wandered past the dealer just after 11 am and could see the van parked outside.

It was still in the same position at 2 pm - so I could have picked it up at 11am - which would have been great. They had finished the service, but they didn't ring because they were waiting on the wipers to be delivered. When they finally arrived at around 2 pm - they were the wrong ones. I was asked if I wanted to wait while they got the proper ones in. I quickly declined that option !! They took the $90 off the $600 bill.

When I got into the van, there was a note about a tyre check hanging from the interior mirror. Their assessment was that the rear tyres were fine at least until the next scheduled service, but the tread on the front tyres indicted that they should be replaced prior to that service. The problem with that was that one of the front tyres was brand new. It had been the spare and was fitted for the first time about six weeks earlier following a puncture.

Talk about drumming up business !

Egg Corp on the run

For anyone who has missed it, full details of the Egg Corporation's Egg Standards Australia application to the ACCC can be found here:
http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1060311/fromItemId/ACCC

There is still time to make a submission as the deadline has been extended.

The Egg Corporation has at last realised that it has a problem and is using spurious arguments to urge its members to make submissions. Quite a few already have sent in their concerns about the proposals because they realise the damage which the Australian Egg Corporation has caused the industry.

Many cage farmers recognise that the proposals put forward will only benefit the major supermarket chains and the corporate producers who control AECL.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Energy Globe website now has all the 2012 winners up

The Energy Globe website has all the national winners posted.  Have a look at Freeranger Eggs at:
http://www.energyglobe.info/awards/national/awdid/26490/

Grantville isn't exactly the Australian Outback ... and we don't claim to be organic ... but apart from that everything is fine.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Card campaign on stocking density

As well as submissions, letters and signatures on petitions to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission urging it to reject the Egg Standards Australia proposal lodged by the Australian Egg Corporation, postcards are being distributed asking the NSW Government to support truth in labelling legislation.
A Bill has passed the Upper House and it's important to persuade the NSW O'Farrell Government to support the Bill in the Lower House.  If it gets up (and a similar Bill in the SA Parliament) it will stop the Egg Corporation from any further attempts to mislead consumers and damage the egg industry by allowing high density producers to describe their eggs as 'free range'.
We will have the postcards at the Coal Creek Farmers' Maket today, at Inverloch next week and at Churchill Island the following Saturday.
We are also making them available at several of the retail outlets in our region.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Egg Corp plans explained

The Free Range Farmers Association has set up a page on its website to explain the proposals on stocking density being pushed by the Australian Egg Corporation.
The page is at http://www.freerangefarmers.com.au/aecls-free-range-standards.html
and we urge all egg producers and consumers to contact the ACCC asking for the proposed Trade Mark and the Egg Standards Australia proposal to be rejected.
If the new standard is approved, the flow-on effects for the rest of industry will be significant and consumers will be totally unable to trust labels on egg cartons.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Fake eggs in China

Following some serious food contamination issues in China - including lacing milk with melamine to increase protein levels - fake eggs have now been discovered. Maybe it will give the Australian Egg Corporation ideas?
http://www.theranger.co.uk/news/China-investigates-fake-egg-scare_21738.html

Saturday, June 02, 2012

BFREPA talks about AECL's deception

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association says that research carried out by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) is at the centre of a war of words over attempts to introduce a huge increase in permitted external stocking densities on Australian free range egg units.
http://www.farminguk.com/news/Australian-stocking-density-battle-over-Scottish-Agricultural-College-research_23635.html

Thursday, May 31, 2012

ABC 'AM' program talks about stocking densities

There was a good report today on ABC radio's AM program about the Egg Corporation's proposals and the results of a consumer survey by CHOICE.
Have a listen at:
http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2012/s3514839.htm

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ACCC calls for submissions

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is inviting comment on an application from the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd for new egg production standards - including its controversial high density standard for free range egg farms.

The Australian Egg Corp. has made an application to register a certification trade mark, including amendments to  Farm Standards for Egg Producers.

Among the things being considered by the ACCC are that:

the new standard would not be to the detriment of the public (the pubic detriment test); and
would be satisfactory having regard to the principles relating to restrictive trade practices in Part IV of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and the principles relating to unconscionable conduct (Part2-2), unfair practices (Part 3-1), and safety of consumer goods and product related services (Part 3-3) in Schedule 2 (Australian Consumer Law) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (the trade practices test)

Submissions are required by 20th June 2012 and can be lodged by email to adjudication@accc.gov.au

We urge anyone who is interested to send a submission to the ACCC.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What does free range mean?

Here's a video about what the terms 'cage free' and 'free range' mean. It was produced in the US, but it is just as relevent here in Australia  - especially with the intensive standards proposed by the Australian Egg Corporation.
http://www.pbs.org/food/features/the-lexicon-of-sustainability-the-story-of-an-egg/

Everyone involved in the egg industry (and consumers) need to squeal loudly at the AECL and at politicians to stop this insane proposal from being implemented. Email or write to AECL Board members and the Minister for Agricuture in your State if you think that 20,000 hens per hectare is not appropriate as a stocking density for free range egg production.

Very recent research conducted in Australia by respected researchers does not back the claims made by the Egg Corporation. If you want to see a copy of the research paper, contact the Free Range Farmers Association email freeranger (at) dcsi.net.au

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

RSPCA helps to keep pressure on AECL

The RSPCA has come out with strong opposition to the Egg Corporation's high density stocking plans even though it accepts beak trimming and a lift in stocking density from a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare to 2500.
The full story is in todays' Australian with a picture of a genuine free range farm and some comments by the owner, Vesna Luketic.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/rspca-steps-into-free-range-egg-row/story-e6frg6nf-1226356715868

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pushing the 'free range' barrow

Here's a new marketing tool we have started to use at the Farmers' Markets we attend. It was developed for Human Choice and is designed to raise awareness amongst consumers about the need to question the 'free range' claims made by some producers.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Freeranger Eggs now on Facebook

We have now set up a Facebook page for Freeranger Eggs, as well as Phil's Facebook Page. (I may discontinue that as most of the stuff I put there is about the farm anyway!)
The link is:
https://www.facebook.com/FreerangerEggs

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Freeranger Eggs wins Energy Globe Award for Australia

Freeranger Eggs won a sustainability award from the Austrian-based Energy Globe organisation. The presentation was made in Victoria's Parliament House on Friday May 4 by the Austrian Consul General and Trade Commisioner, Mr Guido Stock.
The Speaker of the House, The Hon Ken Smith, arranged for the award to be presented in the Parliament building to Anne and Phil Westwood of Freeranger Eggs, Grantville.

The International Energy Globe Awards (the World  Awards for Sustainability) have been presented annually in Austria since 1999 to recognise projects that 'make careful and economical use of resources and employ alternative energy sources.' 

Freeranger Eggs has been established to demonstrate that a commercial farming business can operate without compromising the environmental and ecological values of the land as well as meeting strict animal welfare standards. The farm was set up as a traditional mixed farm, running sheep, cattle and free range hens.  

It is being used to showcase sustainable farming principles and provides a practical example of land use which can generate profits as well as good environmental outcomes. Workshops and practical farm sessions are held for students, farmers and as an educational tool for others in the community.
What we are doing can be easily replicated and we have developed an e-book which has helped many others to set up similar operations in Victoria, in other Australian States and even overseas.

 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Choice joins the egg fight

It's great that Choice has joined the fight against the Australian Egg Corporation plans to allow massive stocking densities on 'free range' farms.

It was also a kick in the teeth for AECL when the Scottish Agricultural College denied claims by the Egg Corp that its research backed the proposed stocking density standards.
http://www.superliving.com.au/lifestyle/cuisine/dining-outin/hens-per-hectare-rate-doesnt-add-up,-says-choice

Sunday, April 29, 2012

State Governor visits Churchill Island

The Governor of Victoria, Alex Chernov, visited the Churchill Island Farmers' Market yesterday along with Ken Smith, the Parliamentary Speaker (and also our local MP).

I had quite a chat with Mr Chernov about the farm and the way we run things and he congratulated us on winning an international environmental award - the Energy Globe. It will be presented to us in Parliament House next Friday by the Austrian Consul General, Guido Stock.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What is the stocking density for free range hens?

An article in today's Brisbane Courier Mail puts the Egg Corp's proposals into clear perspective and explodes the arguments used for intensive stocking rates.
The Australian Egg Corp says the current recommendation of 1500 birds per hectare is unsustainable and that, if it is enforced, Australia will soon be forced to import eggs from nations that have animal welfare laws worse than ours.
This is from a corporation that claims chooks that deliver cage eggs are happy and healthy, and that anyone who claims otherwise is alarmist and extremist.
It warns that without greater stock density allowances, egg prices are set to rocket. Who is using scare tactics now?
So how is it that the rules on how chooks are housed and what "free range" means can be so flexible? Because apart from some basic animal welfare laws, there is no federal legislation on safe, sustainable and humane stock densities. The Government opts for self-regulation and recommended codes of practice, in this area at least.
But if the official egg industry service body can't manage labelling honesty, maybe it is time to legislate and give that legislation teeth. Consumers would also get certainty about what they are buying.
Queensland is a trailblazer as the only state with mandated 1500 birds per hectare. But that is only for eggs produced in the Sunshine State. Eggs on our supermarket shelves come from far and wide.
Several Queensland egg companies remain financially successful under the decade-old laws, flying in the face of AEC warnings about soaring prices if the 1500-bird recommendation is retained.
Read it all at:
http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/cagey-labelling-is-egg-in-our-face/story-e6frerdf-1226332053641

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Free range debate on ABC TV Breakfast

The Free Range Farmers Association had a great session with ABC Breakfast, and the story was run later in the day on TV and radio throughout Australia.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-04-16/free-range-definition-to-rise/3952190

James Kellaway will be on the show on Tuesday morning trying to undo the damage with his usual spin. You have to feel a bit sorry for him, because he knows that what the Egg Corp is doing is unethical and just plain wrong - but he has to do what he is told by his Board which is controlled by the big corporations.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More on the AECL nonsense

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDOw-ut1Xto&feature=autoplay&list=ULvDOw-ut1Xto&lf=channel&playnext=134

Blast for AECL in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

There were excellent articles today in the Sydney Sun-Herald and the Mebourne Age about the Australian Egg Corporation's absurd plans for the industry - aimed to deceive consumers.

Have a read at:
 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/free-ranging-approach-to-obeying-code-20120414-1x0js.html

and complain to your local Member of Parliament - as well as the Minister for Agriculture in your State and the federal Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig. They really do need to get their fingers out!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SA Minister for Agriculture may be joining the fight

The South Australian Minister for Agriculture, Gail Gago may support the Liberal/Greens Bill in Paliament to limit free range stocking densities to 1500 hens per hectare.
She is quoted in today's Adelaide Advertiser as saying: 20,000 hens per hectare was 'out of touch with public expectations'.

Great news from Minister Gago. Let's hope we can get the NSW Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, to adopt the same stand.
Read the story at:
http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/crack-down-on-free-range-egg-farms/story-e6frea6u-1226322235381?from=public_rss

This should help to scuttle the absurd stocking density proposal being pushed by the Australian Egg Corporation.

Friday, April 06, 2012

One third of all eggs labelled as 'free range' in Australia are from intensive farms - official industry figures


The Australian Egg Corporation has revealed that consumers are being conned on a massive scale. AECL's Communications Manager, Kai Ianssen has admitted that: '29% of free range egg production in Australia is sourced from farms that currently stock free range hens at densities greater than 2 birds per square metre (20,000 per hectare) and do comply to the Model Code of Practice. The egg industry wishes to address this erroneous situation.'
What an admission. So consumers are paying a premium for eggs which are identical to cheaper eggs from intensive farms alongside them on the supermarket shelves.

 Quite apart from the issue of consumer deception, the nutrient load from 20,000 hens per hectare is unsustainable. There are various estimates, but that figure represents a DSE of up to 800.


That quote from AECL should help the politicians see that the industry is incapable of self-regulation.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Liberals in SA help to stop egg consumer con

Liberal MP Michael Pengilly introduced a Bill to the South Australian Parliament this week to limit the stocking density of hens on free range egg farms to 1500 hens per hectare.

If the Bill gets up, and it should unless the Australian Egg Corporation's bullying tactics work, it will be the final nail in the coffin of the AECL plans to launch a new intensive standard for 'free range' production.

Read the Bill at:
http://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/LZ/B/CURRENT/FOOD%20(LABELLING%20OF%20FREE-RANGE%20EGGS)%20AMENDMENT%20BILL%202012_MICHAEL%20PENGILLY%20MP/B_AS%20INTRODUCED%20IN%20HA/FOOD%20EGGS%20AMENDMENT%20BILL%202012.UN.PDF

Researchers battle over 'free range' behaviour

This article from the Armidale Express points out the misleading nature of research publshed last week by the University of  Sydney into stress levels in chickens:

RESEARCH at the University of New England into the freerange egg production system is taking a closer look at how chickens’ moods are connected to their desire to spend time outdoors.

Professor Geoff Hich from the UNE is leading research into new approaches on how we can assess the welfare of chickens, including measuring their emotional state, and motivational and behavioural tendencies.

Researchers will use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to identify hens that proportionally spend more time either indoors or outdoors.

Physiological and behavioural differences in the birds can then be examined.

Dr Hinch said part of the study involved determining the birds’ emotional welfare by examining their choices and whether they were optimistic or pessimistic.

"If a bird is feeling good about itself and it has to make a choice, it will usually err on the side of an optimistic choice," he said.

"If a bird is feeling bad about itself, it’s more likely to make a pessimistic choice.

"So we set up a situation where birds have to make a choice aud see if they make au optimistic or pessimistic choice." The project has been running for six months and currently includes 50 chickens.

A study released last week by Jeff Downing from the University of Sydney claimed that free-range chickens are not necessarily less stressed than their caged connterparts bnt Dr Hinch said this research was flawed.

The study, funded by the Australian Egg Corporation, measured levels of the stress hormone, corticosterone, in chickens on 12 farms using free range, barn or caged production systems. Dr Downing claims his results found that individual environmental factors are more likely to effect chickens’ stress levels than their production system.

Dr Hinch said the study did not take into account enough measurements of welfare for its findings to be conclusive.

"If the results are based purely on corticosterone measurements, I’m not sure I can take the study as an accurate result," he said.

We agree - the study was designed to achieve the results wanted by AECL.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mad scientists producing synthetic meat - are eggs next?

Scientists have been working on this one for years. Growing meat from stem cells. Stem cells used from the slaughter house floor is what makes this scary. Just think where Mad Cow Disease started. Diseased meat leftovers being fed to cattle.

Some people argue that this is the answer to save animal lives from the huge numbers that are slaughtered every year for human consumption. Others think this is the anwer for keeping starving nations of the world from dieing of hunger. In 2003 the University of Western Australia was growing kidney-sized steaks from pig and lamb stem cells, with funding from NASA.

It takes just two weeks to grow pig stem cells into muscle fibers. Muscles that have never been used or worked out are a gooey mess of flesh and do not contain the fiberous tissue that we are used to eating. The idea is to stretch the tissue to move it back and forth, resembling the use of regular muscles on a live animal, to get the tissue to transform from flub.

Some multi-national restaurant chains are apparently already using this for "meat" in their chicken nuggets. The idea is that you can also add omega-3 and vitamins to the mix.

This lab-meat may arouse consumer opposition, so be on the look out for the big corporations and their "clever wording" usage, to describe it. Synthetic eggs may be next !! Read the labels.

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4521851/would-you-eat-burgers-grown-in-petri-dish/

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More on Stressed hens from ABC Radio's The World Today

A new study has cast doubt over whether free-range hens are happier and more stress-free than their caged counterparts.
Research funded by the Australian Egg Corporation has looked at the stress hormone levels in eggs produced at a dozen farms.
But the Free Range industry group has criticised the study, saying it is part of a push to change the classification of free range.
Dr Jeff Downing, from the University of Sydney, tested eggs from different farms across New South Wales over 12 weeks.
"What I found is that there was no difference between the different production systems," he said.
"But the interesting thing is there is a great deal of variation between individual farms using any particular production system.
"So it indicates to me that the challenges and the environment the hens are in on a particular farm probably has more influence on the stress levels they experience, rather than the type of production system they are in."
Dr Downing says stress levels were elevated in several situations across all three types of farms.
"This hormone is triggered by neural triggers, so the hen is challenged and the neural triggers are things like fear, anxiety, pain, and they trigger this hormone. So as these challenges increase, then the levels of this hormone increase," he said.
He says his research makes it a little more complicated for consumers to pick eggs at the supermarket.
"As a consumer, and I go and select eggs based on the production system, I don't think that gives me any guarantee that those hens have experienced less stress than those in another production system," he said.
"It's really what's happening on the individual farm that's probably more influential on the stress levels that they experience."
'Poor measure'
However RSPCA scientific officer Melina Tensen says the method used to test whether hens were stressed is flawed.
"Corticosterone is a poor measure of animal welfare. It sort of goes up and down during the day and it really depends on all sorts of things in the bird's environment," she said.
"You could see corticosterone as a level of excitement, either positive or negative, and if it's positive excitement, obviously the bird could be having fun, and if it's negative excitement, then obviously the bird is stressed.
"The overwhelming research looking at the welfare of birds in cages suggests that the hens definitely suffer in a caged environment."
The Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia's president, Phil Westwood, has also cast doubts on the study.
He says the so-called free-range farms visited in Dr Downing's study were in fact not a true classification of free range.
"I don't disagree that probably the farm management has more importance than the actual production type; a well-managed farm is likely to have lower stress levels in the chooks," he said.
"But what this research doesn't show is that almost certainly the free range farms that were selected to take part in this study were actually intensive farms, so they wouldn't be farms that most consumers would regard as actually free range.
"They're running birds of maybe 20,000-30,000 birds per hectare. That is not a free range farm.
Mr Westwood says a free-range farm that meets the model code requirement has 1,500 birds per hectare.
"That allows the birds to display their normal behaviour practices. They can do the things that a chook normally does and they're not de-beaked or beak trimmed," he said.
Mr Westwood says the Egg Corporation is trying to change standards to allow 20,000 birds per hectare to be classified as free range.
Nobody from the Egg Corporation was available to talk to The World Today, however, a spokesman said the research is solid and it is unfortunate some are trying to politicise it.
A University of Sydney statement confirms Dr Downing's research received funding from the Australian Egg Corporation.
But it says he carried out his research independently and the report was reviewed by independent, external referees.