Thursday, August 17, 2017

Senate could extend its farm gate price enquiry to cover eggs

It's a pity that the current Senate inquiry into farm gate milk prices isn't extended to also cover the treatment of farmers in the egg industry. Political interference in the definition of free range eggs has created a massive platform for consumer deception and unfair competition. Ministers for Consumer Affairs got it wrong when they allowed an intensive stocking density for free range egg production. The Model Code of Practice recommended a maximum outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare but the Ministers approved a density of 10,000 hens without taking account of planning laws which treat intensive farming operations as feed lots with restrictive planning regulations. They also ignored rulings by Federal Court justices in cases of deceptive conduct over egg labelling. False assertions were made by major players in the egg industry that no maximum stocking density was set in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). The industry cobbled together an amended code which they peddled as the real thing and claimed that it showed no maximum stocking density. They included in the main body of their version of the code, an edited item from the Appendix which they said allowed unlimited stocking densities. The actual Appendix states at 2.1.4 “The maximum acceptable densities for free range birds For layer hens a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare.” Then it refers to meat birds.”Meat chickens, a proportionately higher stocking density than for layers may be used.” The intent is crystal clear but in their dodgy version of the code, the industry left out all references to ‘meat birds’. The plan was clearly designed to deceive Ministers and con them into accepting that the Model Code did not establish a maximum stocking density and to accept their arguments and those of the major supermarkets for a 10,000 hen per hectare density. The Senate could trawl through all the deception and bring some certainty to farmers and consumers.

Monday, August 07, 2017

intensive 'free range' law comes into effect on April 18 unless Federal Court intervenes or politicians see sense

Unless politicians change their minds ( or the Federal Court changes them), the ridiculous new labelling regulations for free range eggs will come into effect on April 18, 2018 – a year and a day after the Government published the new information standard allowing an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare. We have asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to test the validity of the intensive'free range' standard endorsed by politicians. A stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare is completely unsustainable and well outside the limits of acceptability by consumers or farmers. We forwarded the report by Melbourne University into the issue.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

We aim to get hundreds more free range egg farms started

There is huge demand in this country for more free range eggs, but consumers know that they can't trust labels on eggs found in supermarkets, especially after politicians approved a high density stocking rate which allows families to be ripped-off. Everyone can help to establish more genuine, small scale free range egg farms by supporting a programme of webinars demonstrating all the processes involved. The webinars will encourage hundreds more farms to be established all over Australia. Freeranger Eggs in South Gippsland and the Freeranger Club have run workshops in the past, but the webinars will reach far more potential egg farmers. The preparation of the webinars is being supporting by a crowd funding appeal. To help, click here

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Big producers 'conned' politicians over 'free range' standard

A report by Melbourne University in the Journal of Rural Studies shows how big producers in the egg industry pushed politicians to agree to the definition of 'free range' that suited their intensive businesses. Australia’s egg industry was able to “capture” the development of the national information standard, ensuring that “free range” was legally defined as industrial-scale free range, with the tacit support of Australia’s two dominant retailers, who had already set standards for “free range” eggs, which underpinned the industry’s proposed definition. The new national standard may still be tested in court as it does not meet findings in previous decisions by Federal Court judges, and may also breach planning laws which treat intensive animal husbandry as feedlots. Consumer Ministers have egg on their faces over their 'free range' decision. Ministers for Consumer Affairs got it wrong when they allowed an intensive stocking density for free range egg production. The Model Code of Practice recommended a maximum outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare but the Ministers approved a density of 10,000 hens without taking account of planning laws which treat intensive farming operations as feed lots with restrictive planning regulations. They also ignored rulings by Federal Court justices in cases of deceptive conduct over egg labelling. The issue could be taken to court for a ruling.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

$1 million penalty foir false egg labelling

A West Australian egg producer has to pay more than a million dollars after the Federal court revealed the penalty for selling eggs which were falsely labelled as free range Snowdale Holdings was found guilty more than a year ago but the penalty of $750,000 plus $300,000 costs has just been announced. The action was brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which said that the company sold 71% of its eggs as free range even though half the chickens on various properties probably never left their sheds This penalty is big enough to worry many dodgy producers who risk prosecution despite political attempts to protect them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New welfare standards for poultry

Public consultation on new welfare standards to replace the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, Domestic Poultry is expected to begin within two months. Animal Health Australia has been preparing the new standards for over a year, in consultation with a variety of major interest groups. Details are at http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/poultry this is part of the submission we will make to AHA: Chickens need to be allowed to follow their normal behaviour rather than be confined. Modern domestic chickens have the same characteristics and habits as the Red Jungle Fowl from which they descended. The Red Jungle Fowl range in small groups on the forest floor. They forage on the ground for seeds, fruit and insects, using their feet to scratch away leaf litter when searching for food. From animal behaviour website https://www.animalbehaviour.net/poultry On modern intensive cage egg laying properties,.chickens are kept in groups of 3–10 birds in cages with space allowances of 350-600 sq cm per bird(Mench and Keeling, 2001). Stocking densities vary around the world, 350 sq cm on average in the United States, to as high as 700-800 sq cm in Norway and Switzerland (Savage, 2000). Meat chicken sheds. These hold from 10,000–70,000 meat birds, housed on litter in either semi-enclosed or environmentally closed houses. Stocking densities vary from 30–50 kg live weight per square metre (Mench and Keeling, 2001). The social organisation differs in these systems but pecking orders emerge.In cages, there is a definite hierarchy established by pecking and threatening when the hens are placed in the cage, usually a few weeks before laying commences The social order in broiler flocks is relatively unimportant as they are generally processed at an age when the establishment of social stratification is just beginning (Siegel, 1984). Laying hens have complex interrelationships involving social rank, aggression, feeding behaviour and egg production (Mench and Keeling, 2001). In large groups kept together for some months, subgroups form and become restricted to an area. This means that birds can recognise their own group members and those of an overlapping territory. It was suggested that this territorial behaviour is important in large flocks as it reduces the numbers of conflicts when strangers meet (McBride and Foenander, 1962). It has also been shown that individuals are more dominant in the area where they spend most time. Thus in larger flocks, hens tend to live in neighbourhoods where they are well-acquainted (Craig and Guhl, 1969). Laying hens choose to feed close to each other when given a choice of feeding locations, which demonstrates the importance of social attraction (Meunier- Salaun and Faure, 1984). Hens that are in the same cage and in neighbouring cages synchronise their feeding. Chickens show socially facilitated feeding, in particular, they peck more at feed when they have company than when alone (Keeling and Hurink, 1996). Caged birds may exhibit some abnormal behaviour such as head flicks and feather pecking, i.e., pecking and pulling the feathers of other birds (Mench and Keeling, 2001). Feather-pecking may be a form of redirected ground pecking (Blokhuis, 1989). Experience in early life with ground pecking may influence pecking behaviour in later life (Blokhuis, 1991). The motivation for the redirection of ground-pecking happens when the incentive value of the ground is low, compared with the incentive value of pecking substrates (Bindara, 1969). In high-density situations, the birds and feathers make up a higher proportion of stimuli relative to the litter area. It is possible that the birds may perceive the feathers as dust and that may cause a redirection of ground pecking to feather-pecking (Hansen and Braastad,1994).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Egg industry workshops around Australia

The Australian Egg Corporation (Australian Eggs) is holding workshops for the egg industry around the country. Subjects being covered include:   Hen behaviour and beak treatment Egg Standards in Australia Salmonella intervention strategies and egg washing Water quality and biosecurity   Workshops will be held in Penrith NSW on August 1, Yass on September 5 and Taree on September 7, Geelong in Victoria on July 27 and Attwood on August 29 South Perth WA on September 19 Roseworthy SA on November 2.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Stupidmarkets' egg price war

The major Australian supermarkets, Coles, Woolworths and Aldi are taking advantage of consumers, thanks to Ministers for Consumer Affairs allowing intensively produced eggs to be labelled as 'free range'. After caving-in to corporate lobbyists, the Ministers allowed eggs produced on intensive, industrial-scale facilities to be sold as free range. In the supermarkets, customers may as well buy the cheapest eggs available, because they are all basically the same.There is no point in looking on supermarket shelves if anyone wishes to buy genuine free range eggs- the labels are meaningless. Buy them direct from a farm that you know. The big retailers make a killing whatever you buy.They are great place to buy household items like toilet paper, toothpaste, washing powder and soap - but it's a mystery why anyone buys fresh food there. Food is usually better value at butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers etc.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Nutrient loading on free range farms

The stocking density of farm animals is a critical factor in the long term sustainability of farmland. With chickens, the maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare was established by the industry, academics, politicians and bureaucrats when they prepared the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). Nutrients and trace elements in manure accumulate in the soil, making it toxic for vegetation and polluting ground and surface water.
A laying hen produces half a cubic metre of manure a year. So with a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare approved by Ministers for Consumer Affairs earlier this year, farmers who follow their advice will see their land covered with 5000 cubic metres of manure per hectare every year. Chicken manure has the highest amount of nitrogen,phosphorus, and potassium of all manures, so will likely render the land useless for farming within a few years. Contamination of groundwater and water courses is also likely.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Egg stamping 'a waste of time' - Productivity Commission

If politicians take any notice of the Productivity Commission, they may scrap the requirement for stamping eggs. Some of the absurdities of the regulation are that not all eggs are stamped, some are stamped on-farm and some are stamped at a grading floor where there may be little or no traceability back to the farm. But in any event the Productivity Commission in its draft review of the regulations said that the cost of egg stamping represents about 65% of the food safety regulations “and does not appear to deliver superior traceability than labelling on egg cartons or requiring businesses to keep records.” The additional cost per dozen eggs is estimated to be 11.34 cents. The Commission found no evidence that egg stamping provides higher net benefits to the community than the alternatives.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Academic study into using antibiotic growth promotants in poultry and egg production

A new academic study has been started to demonstrate something that all free range egg farmers know – that cage egg production is more efficient than free range. Keeping animals And birds in climate controlled sheds and feeding highly processed food is vastly more p[rofitable than letting livestock behave naturally – which is why there are so many feed lots and high density factory farms. Researchers at The University of Sydney, say that free-range broilers and layer hens are less efficient converters of feed into saleable meat and eggs, and generally have higher mortality than poultry reared in sheds. A new Poultry CRC project led by Dr Aaron Cowieson (Director of the University of Sydney’s Poultry Research Foundation) aims to establish the principle reasons for the observed performance gap between free-range and intensively reared hens. The project will evaluate various feed alternatives to reduce the differences in performance. It will also look at the lack of antibiotics in feed given to free range birds and their access to range. This seems to suggest that antibiotic growth promotants are widely used by cage and barn laid egg producers - something the industry has frequently denied.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

hens need to follow their natural behaviour for best performance

Academic researchers often produce theories and reports designed to demonstrate what 'free range' means in the egg industry. Their findings are usually based on carefully arranged criteria set by an organisation which funded the research and expected specific outcomes. Far better to rely on the experience of those in the industry actually running free range egg farms. Some people are fixated on the issue of animal welfare and they lose sight of matters like food safety and land sustainability. Outdoor stocking density is a key example. Academics found it easy to come up with results from research on small scale or short term projects to demonstrate that stocking densities had little or no impact on hen welfare. But it has been impossible for them to demonstrate that high densities had no detrimental impact on pasture quality, pollution of waterways, groundwater and the long term productivity of the land as a result of excessive nutrient loads. The maximum sustainable stocking density for poultry has been established at 1500 hens per hectare to minimise land degredation and ensure the long-term viability of the land. Laying hens, like most if not all other animals, perform best when they are able to follow their natural behaviour. They clearly need shelter, food and water but they also need to wander around freely to forage, scratch, dust bathe and interact socially with others in the flock. Allowing the hens to follow their natural cycles keeps them happy - so there should be no lights in the sheds to trick them into thinking its still daylight and to keep eating and laying eggs (they need as much sleep as we do!)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Government regulations ensure the spread of avian influenza

Factory farms are incubating the next outbreak of Avian Influenza in Australia. Ministers who approved an intensive stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare have put the entire Australian egg industry at risk. Such high densities allow any disease outbreak to spread rapidly. One gram of droppings from a chicken infected with bird flu contains enough viruses to infect the entire flock.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Free range egg farm in Zambia

We have helped many people in Australia to set up free range farms. The way our system of production is easily replicated is one reason we won the Energy Globe Award for Australia in 2012. We have had requests for help from various parts of the world - today we sent off our eBook on setting up a free range egg farm to Zambia. We received a request for technical assistance to assist in setting up a free range egg production farm in Lusaka Zambia. Of course the answer was Yes!

Monday, June 12, 2017

$43 million a year rip off

Tom Godfrey of consumer group, Choice says that the political decision to allow intensively produced eggs to be labelled as 'free range' will rip off consumers to the tune of $43 million a year. Consumers are overpaying for dodgy free range eggs and big producers are being protected from prosecution by changes to the Australian Consumer Law.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

False claims on poultry stocking densities

False assertions by the egg industry that no maximum stocking density was set in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry) need to be revealed. The industry cobbled together an amended code which they peddle as the real thing and claim that it shows no maximum stocking density. They included in the main body of their version of the code, an edited item from the Appendix which they claim allows unlimited stocking densities.
The actual Appendix states at 2.1.4 “The maximum acceptable densities for free range birds For layer hens a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare.” Then it refers to meat birds.”Meat chickens, a proportionately higher stocking density than for layers may be used.” The intent is crystal clear but in their dodgy version of the code, the industry left out all references to ‘meat birds’. The plan was clearly designed to deceive Ministers and con them into accepting that the Model Code did not establish a maximum stocking density and to accept their arguments and those of the major supermarkets for a 10,000 hen per hectare density.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Small is beautiful

When large numbers of animals are farmed intensively on industrial units to maximise profits, problems are inevitable. Disease control and food safety are prime issues as is environmental sustainability. Since the Second World War, agricultural practices have gone through massive changes, in mechanisation, chemical use and large-scale intensive farming.
As a result of increasing the density of domestic farm animals, reported farm pollution incidents have sky-rocketed. In some areas farm waste is a major problem. Some countries report that about half of all serious water pollution incidents are caused by manure run-off from farms. Poultry, cows and pigs are the farm animals most responsible for the pollution. Livestock production occupies 70% of all land used for agriculture and 30% of the planet’s land surface. It is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. It also generates 64% of the ammonia, which contributes to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.
A large quantity of animal waste is generated by concentrated animal feeding operations and disposal of the waste has been a major problem. The industrialised farms collect the animal waste and mix it with water to form slurry. To be spread on paddocks as fertiliser. If the soil or plants are unable to absorb the nutrients the run-off gets into water systems. On Intensive free range farms running 10,000 hens per hectare, the huge volume of manure on paddocks poses an ecological risk to water courses because of the high nutrient load. Farm waste has led to the growth of toxic algae in waterways (algal blooms), the development of parasitic infections on frogs, and other species. This is why all farms should follow an Environmental Management plan and why low stocking densities should be maintained.Small-scale diversified farming is better than monocultures and intensive farming. But there is some way to go before the egg industry and agriculture as a whole is environmentally sustainable.All this led to the reason for us to start developing webinars to encourage people to set up free range egg farms and wed have a crowd funding campaign to ensure it is a top quality offering. https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c

Best Practice to combat feather pecking

A best practice guide for managing feather pecking and cannibalism in layer hens, put together by Dr Phil Glatz and Geof Runge confirms that beak trimming should be the last option for controlling the problem. The best options are selecting docile breeds in the first place, and limiting competition by reducing stocking densities. Almost certainly the major egg producers will ignore the 'Best Practice' and will continue to use beak trimming as the only method to limit cannibalism. Inappropriate selection of pullets and high stocking densities are the prime causes of aggression amongst flocks which leads to feather pecking and cannibalism – which is one reason a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare was established in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of animals (Domestic Poultry).

Thursday, June 01, 2017

New poultry welfare standards

New Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry are being prepared by Animal Health Australia. the draft standards will be subject to a 90-day public consultation process which is expected to be held later this year.
In addition to welfare issues. there are planning problems with the political stocking density decision. In Victoria, regulations define Intensive animal husbandry: as “Land used to keep or breed farm animals, including birds, by importing most food from outside the enclosures. Which means that such properties will be treated as Lot feeding operations and permits are likely to be refused by most councils. There is no real basis for changing the stocking density recommended in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry).When the current version of the Code was approved by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council and printed in 2002, it was scheduled for review in 2010. It was a development of an earlier version of the Model Code. it is essential for the free range sector of the egg industry to ensure that intensive production standards are not allowed to stay in place of the extensive requirements of the code. There has no science behind high density free range proposals (other than the certainty of increased profits. No scientific review of production processes has been undertaken to demonstrate that the standards contained within the voluntary Model Code are no longer applicable to the industry. The stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare for free range hens was developed by applying well established principles of agronomy. The issue of the upper limit on the long term stocking rate was debated strongly at the time, following pressure from local Councils and the EPA about how some farms were operating. The experience of people who had farmed free range layers in the 1950’s and 60's, when all egg production was based on free range principles. Hens were often run under citrus trees It was recognised that for an operation to be sustainable, the stocking rate had to be low - less than 300 birds/acre (750/hectare). It was agreed that such a system should be regarded as Free Range egg production and the hens were to have access to the range during daylight hours. There was some dispute by new entrants to the industry who believed that they could design pasture rotation systems around their sheds that would allow higher rates. So it was decided to take an empirical approach and work out what the maximum stocking rate could be to avoid the measurable negative impacts of nutrient run off and soil degradation and still be theoretically possible to maintain pasture cover and avoid the issue of dust. Some argued that as most hens were in sheds at night and may be locked in for part of the day so that only a portion of the hens actually entered the range area, the impact is lessened. The dairy industry was very big at that time and local agronomists had data on the effects of applying very high rates of poultry manure on irrigated pasture. The agronomists studied the data on the maximum nutrient uptake a well maintained irrigated pasture could support and also avoid the problems of salinity build up observed in the dairy pastures. The stocking rate was calculated and a stocking density of up to 600 birds/acre (1500/hectare) was regarded as the maximum possible for long term sustainability. At the time the Code was approved, it was accepted that to maintain consumer credibility, visitors or passers-by had to see the birds out and about on the range. It was also accepted that there is no valid animal management need to lock in the layers in the morning or during inclement weather. Those currently involved in free range egg production agree that the fundamental elements of the Model Code should remain in place and be made mandatory.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Look out for colouring additives in food

It's not only the colour of egg yolks which is manipulated to make them look more attractive to consumers.
Chart from Kitchen Table Scraps. The same additives are used by fish farmers. Wild salmon forage for crustaceans, plankton and algae that contain naturally occurring colourful carotenoid plant pigments. Farmed salmon, are fed an artificial soy- and corn-based diet devoid of these natural pigments, which means their flesh has little colour. To prevent consumer rejection of the product, salmon farmers add canthaxanthin and astaxanthin to the fish feed to boost the colour. Meat producers also use a few tricks to make their products more appealing – such as bleaching chicken to make the flesh white, even though colouring additives have often been included in the diet to produce yellow skins which some producers think is wanted by consumers. Frequently red meat is sealed in airtight packages treated with carbon monoxide to maintain a bright red colour for weeks. The best solution is to limit shopping in supermarkets to household items like toilet paper. Toothpaste and cleaning products. Buy all fresh food from trusted suppliers – butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Consumers duped by big businesses

Most of the meat and eggs sold in Australian supermarkets come from intensive production facilities (you can't call them farms).Consumers eagerly buy beef labelled 'Grain fed' and believe they are getting a superior product. The reality is that they are missing out on the full flavour of grass fed cattle.The same thing applies to eggs. Supermarkets only stock eggs from large producers even though some labels claim they are 'free range'. Since a political decision allowing an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare, the whole labelling question has been a joke. Producers have shown that they will put anything on their packaging if they think it will help to boost profits so they won't hesitate to put false stocking density claims on their labels because the politicians failed to ensure that such claims would be checked. Food grown naturally usually has better flavour and more nutrients compared with the intensive alternatives - that goes for vegetables as well as meat, fish and eggs.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Colouring in poultry feed creates allergic reactions

All major egg producers and many small ones - even those which claim to be free range and organic - use colouring additives in the feed they give their hens. Their use is completely unnecessary in a free range flock, as hens running on quality 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 the time of year and what each hen has been eating – but many egg producers want to con consumers by using 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' are manufactured in factories – often in China. What the manufacturers mean by using the word 'natural' is that the additives may be derived from natural products but are processed and concentrated into a powder or liquid.
Some of the most widely used egg yolk pigmenters are: Canthaxanin or Canthaxanthin which appears to be an unsafe additive. It can cause diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, dry and itchy skin, hives, orange or red body secretions, and other side effects. Do not use canthaxanthin if you experience breathing problems; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat; a skin rash or hives; you are pregnant or breast-feeding or you are allergic to vitamin A or carotenoids. Capsicum. Allergic reactions to capsicum may occur. Stop eating eggs with capsicum-based colouring and seek emergency medical attention if you 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. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider if you experience upset stomach; heartburn; diarrhoea; migraine attacks or burning sensation in the mouth or throat. Use of Capsicum is not recommended if you are pregnant. If you are or will be breast-feeding while eating food containing Capsicum, check with your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the risks to young children. Capsicum colourings can bring on anaphylactic shock. See details about which plants generate these problems on this site at the University of Maryland: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/anaphylaxis-000008.htm Marigold Some people experience breathing problems, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat. A skin rash or hives may occur. From the Auckland Allergy Clinic Article written: September 2001 Salicylate sensitivity is the body’s inability to handle more than a certain amount of salicylates at any one time. A salicylate sensitive person may have difficulty tolerating certain fruits or vegetables. What are salicylates? Salicylate is a natural chemical made by many plants. It is chemically related to aspirin, which is a derivative of salicylic acid. It is believed the plant uses it as protection from insects, and they are everywhere around us. Although natural salicylates are found in wholesome foods, some individuals have difficulty tolerating even small amounts of them. The reaction to a natural salicylate can be as severe as that to a synthetic additive if the person is highly sensitive. Some people are troubled by only a very few, but some are troubled by all of them. What is salicylate sensitivity? Some adults and children have a low level of tolerance to salicylates and may get symptoms that are dose-related. The tolerated amount varies from one person to another. This is an example of food intolerance. What are some of the symptoms of Salicylate Intolerance? • Chronic Urticaria & Angioedema • Trigger for Eczema • Asthma • Nasal Polyps • Sinusitis • Rhino conjunctivitis • Stomach aches and upsets Foods containing Salicylates Salicylates occur naturally in many fruits, and vegetables as a preservative, to prevent rotting and protect against harmful bacteria and fungi. They are stored in the bark, leaves, roots, and seeds of plants. Salicylates are found naturally in many foods and its compounds are used in many products. All fresh meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cereals, bread are naturally low in salicylates Foods with very high Salicylate content include: Vegetables: Capsicum Hot Peppers Capsaicin is the active component of Capsicum. Pure capsaicin is a volatile, hydrophobic, colourless, odourless, crystalline to waxy compound. Capsaicin Factsheet http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/Capsaicintech.pdf A UK report on The Adverse Effects of Food Additives on Health, published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine described surveys on food intolerance which showed that as many as 2 in 10 people believe that they react badly to certain foods or to their constituents, whereas less than 2 in every 100 has been considered to be the official figure. However, a recently published report indicates that small children are much more likely to react to certain foods. Although the exact numbers are not known, surveys suggest that one child in 10 may be affected in some way Of the nearly 4000 different additives currently in use, over 3640 are used purely for cosmetic reasons and as colouring agents. The continued reason for the use of additives is based on the argument that they are present in foods on such a minute scale that they must be harmless. This argument may be almost acceptable regarding additives with a reversible toxicological action. However, with additives which have been found to be both mutagenic and carcinogenic, neither the human nor animal body is able to detoxify. Therefore even very minute doses of these additives, when consumed continuously, will eventually result in an irreversible toxic burden, resulting finally in cancer formation and/or in chromosomal and foetal damage. This is unacceptable, particularly as the majority of these dangerous agents belong to the food colouring group. The full report is available here: http://www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1994/articles/1994-v09n04-p225.shtml An allergy is a hypersensitity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid. Allergy is one of four forms of hypersensitivity and is formally called type 1 hypersensitivity. Allergic reactions are distinctive because of excessive activation of certain white blood cells. Mild allergies like hay fever are very common in humans but allergies can play a major role in conditions such as asthma. In some people, severe allergies to environmental or dietary allergens may result in life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis. From a Food Additive Guide http://mbm.net.au/health/100-181.htm E160(c) Paprika extract, capsanthin, capsorubin Capsanthin, found in paprika extract, is a red to orange coloured spice derived from the pods and seeds of the red pepper (Capsicum annuum). Contains vitamins A, B, C and traces of Zn, Cu, Se, Co, Mo, etc. Paprika extract also contains capsanthin. Capsanthin may be added to poultry feed to enhance egg yolk colour. Typical products include eggs, meat products. Not listed in Australia. Avoid it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sustainable free range farming

The Freeranger Eggs farm is an example of sustainable farming. The farm management plan takes a three pillars approach to how the farm operates. Animal welfare is one pillar, but equally important are land sustainability and food safety. Despite all the political bickering in Canberra over emissions trading scheme targets, some small businesses have been playing their part in addressing the problem. Freeranger Eggs has been getting on with mitigating the impact of carbon emissions. The farm's carbon footprint is limited by imposing a food miles policy for deliveries, using recycled materials and equipment whenever possible, utilising solar power and mechanical processes and an effective waste reduction programme. As a result, the 1200-chicken farm generates only about 60 tonnes of CO2 each year. But it is better than carbon neutral, it is carbon positive. The average organic matter in soil tests was 4.1 per cent in 2004, in 2006 it was 6.0 per cent, and in 2009 it was 7.9 percent. Calculations based on 2-inch deep samples, show that over those five years the farm sequestered about 14 tons of CO2 per acre or four tonnes of carbon per acre on the grasslands. Further testing and calculations have not been carried out because there has been a total lack of interest in the results.
The farm applies no chemical fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides. This policy increases the biological life in the soil and increases the rate of carbon sequestration. Rotational grazing is practised on the pastures – taking advantage of photosynthesis to pull CO2 into the plants and then into the roots from where it transfers to the soil. In addition, every year at least another tonne of CO2 per acre continues to be sequestered by the regular growth and replacement of Kangaroo Apples in the main paddocks. Native vegetation has been protected on approximately 100 acres of the property and regeneration there sequesters a further tonne of CO2 per acre. This brings a grand total of 1500 tonnes of CO2 sequestered on this property over five years – an average rate of 300 tonnes per year compared with the farm's carbon output of around 60 tonnes. On days of full sun the solar panels on the farm shed generate 13-17kW of electricity a day and as on average the farm consumes just 10kW a day it helps the bottom line. Freeranger Eggs gained international recognition in 2012 as the Australian winner of the Energy Globe Award.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

More people want to set up free range farms

We are getting more requests about running workshops from people wanting to set up sustainable free range farms. The extra activity has been brought on by the stupid political decision to allow consumers to be misled by industrial-scale egg producers who are now legally allowed to label their eggs as free range.
Some of the enquiries are from existing family farmers looking for ways to diversify. On-farm workshops have worked well in the past where we have demonstrated how to operate a sustainable farm producing top quality eggs but the workshops tend to disrupt day-to-day farm activities, as well as presenting biosecurity risks, which is why we have been trying to set up a series of on-line webinars to encourage more people into the industry.https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c Our eBook on setting a free range business is readily available and members of the Freeranger Club are able to download information from our website which helps them set up and run their businesses.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hens are enjoying the sun and warmer conditions

Our flocks of Isa Brown's are getting over the wet,windy conditions of the last few week and enjoying the sun. A drop in egg production is inevitable on genuine free range farms during cold, wet times with less daylight hours. The only way to avoid the problem is to lock the hens in climate controlled sheds like most other egg producers.
Our egg production is slowly building and we should be back to normal deliveries very soon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Research shows animal welfare is not the main reason consumers choose free range eggs

Taste and nutritional values are the major drivers for decisions to choose free range eggs rather than those from hens kept in cages. That's been a view we have held for years, but now there is research to prove it: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2017.1310986

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Search engine rankings

Almost every day we receive emails from companies offering Search Engine Optimisation services. They tell us that they can increase traffic to our website and increase our sales. I have no doubt that these clever souls could increase the number of visitors to the Freeranger Eggs site but there is no way that would result in increased sales – because we don't have any extra eggs to sell. We sell out completely every week. So all it would mean is that we would have to say 'NO' more often to disappointed potential customers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dealing with the risk of Avian Influenza

Good biosecurity measures are vital on any poultry farm to reduce the spread of many diseases - particularly serious ones such as Avian Influenza. It is generally a matter of commonsense and putting the right procedures in place. The Vietnam government has produced a booklet advising farmers and the points are relevant here in Australia. http://www.fao.org/docs/eims/upload/206313/AImanual_vietnam_en.pdf
The risk of disease is highest on intensive farms with large numbers of hens. The only AI outbreaks in Australia have been on intensive properties. In a genuine free range environment where hens are in small numbers and have unrestricted access to pasture, disease outbreaks are uncommon if effective biosecurity measures are in place.Many producers ask 'What are the signs of Avian Influenza?' The Vietnamese manual describes the symptoms well.The disease can appear suddenly in a flock, and many birds die quickly, often without having appeared sick. Or there may be signs of depression, little food intake, ruffled feathers and fever. Other birds show weakness and a staggering gait. Sick birds often sit or stand in a semi-comatose state with their heads touching the ground. Some animals, especially younger birds may show neurological signs. Hens may at first lay soft-shelled eggs, but soon stop laying. Combs and wattles are dark red to blue and swollen and may have pin-point haemorrhages at their tips. Watery diarrhea is frequently present, and birds are excessively thirsty. Respiration may be fast and laboured. Heamorrhages may occur on unfeathered areas of skin, especially the shanks of the legs. The mortality rate varies from 50% to 100%. The virus may not show any clinical signs or lesions.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

World egg production set to hit 100 million tonnes

Outbreaks of avian influenza in many major egg-producing countries have reduced egg production expectations, but total world egg volumes will still reach 100 million tonnes by 2035. Since the year 2000 world egg production increased by 36.5 percent, or an average of 2.8 percent per year. In 2014, a laying flock of 7.2 billion hens produced almost 1,320 billion eggs worldwide, nearly 70 million tonnes. Of course, the majority of the eggs are from intensive operations with hens kept in climate - controlled sheds, mostly in cages.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Food Allergy Week in May

Eggs are often seen as a high risk factor for allergies and intolerances. The problem is usually caused by the colouring additives used by many producers to enhance yolk colour.
All major egg producers and many small ones - even those which claim to be free range and organic - use colouring additives in the feed they give their hens. Their use is completely unnecessary in a free range flock, as hens running on quality 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 the time of year and what each hen has been eating – but many egg producers want to con consumers by using 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' are manufactured in factories – often in China. What the manufacturers mean by using the word 'natural' is that the additives may be derived from natural products but are processed and concentrated into a powder or liquid. All major egg producers and many small ones - even those which claim to be free range and organic, use colouring additives in the feed they give their hens. This use is completely unnecessary in a true free range flock, as hens running on quality 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 the time of year and what each hen has been eating – but many egg producers want to con consumers by using 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' are manufactured in factories – often in China. What the manufacturers mean by using the word 'natural' is that the additives may be derived from natural products but are processed and concentrated into a powder or liquid. Three of the most widely used egg yolk pigmenters are: Canthaxanin or Canthaxanthin which appears to be an unsafe additive. It can cause diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, dry and itchy skin, hives, orange or red body secretions, and other side effects. Do not use canthaxanthin if you experience breathing problems; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat; a skin rash or hives; you are pregnant or breast-feeding or you are allergic to vitamin A or carotenoids. Capsicum Allergic reactions to capsicum may occur. Stop eating eggs with capsicum-based colouring and seek emergency medical attention if you 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. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider if you experience upset stomach; heartburn; diarrhoea; migraine attacks or burning sensation in the mouth or throat. Use of Capsicum is not recommended if you are pregnant. If you are or will be breast-feeding while eating food containing Capsicum, check with your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the risks to your baby. Capsicum colourings can bring on anaphylactic shock. See details about which plants generate these problems on this site at the University of Maryland: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/anaphylaxis-000008.htm Marigold Some people experience breathing problems, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat. A skin rash or hives may occur. From the Auckland Allergy Clinic Article written: September 2001 Salicylate sensitivity is the body’s inability to handle more than a certain amount of salicylates at any one time. A salicylate sensitive person may have difficulty tolerating certain fruits or vegetables. What are salicylates? Salicylate is a natural chemical made by many plants. It is chemically related to aspirin, which is a derivative of salicylic acid. It is believed the plant uses it as protection from insects, and they are everywhere around us. Although natural salicylates are found in wholesome foods, some individuals have difficulty tolerating even small amounts of them. The reaction to a natural salicylate can be as severe as that to a synthetic additive if the person is highly sensitive. Some people are troubled by only a very few, but some are troubled by all of them. What is salicylate sensitivity? Some adults and children have a low level of tolerance to salicylates and may get symptoms that are dose-related. The tolerated amount varies from one person to another. All fresh meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cereals, bread are naturally low in salicylates Foods with very high Salicylate content include: Vegetables: Capsicum Hot Peppers Capsaicin is the active component of Capsicum. Pure capsaicin is a volatile, hydrophobic, colourless, odourless, crystalline to waxy compound.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

More evidence of political stupidity(or corruption) on 'free range' definition

There is now more evidence about the stupidity (or corruption) of the various State Ministers for Consumer Affairs and the Federal Minister for Small Business who approved the new high density standard for free range egg production. There was no science behind the decvision to allow a stocking density of10,00 hens per hectare, which is well beyond the bounds of possible land sustainability see here:http://zootecnicainternational.com/featured/nutrient-loading-free-range-layer-farming/ The politicians meekly accepted the demands of major corporate egg producers and the grocery giants.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Effective vaccines for avian influenza in poultry not yet available

Vaccines have been developed to combat avian influenza in poultry and bird flu in humans. But scientists are reluctant to approve the mass vaccination of chickens because they believe it may not reduce the risk of infection. The vaccines appear to mask the symptoms so poultry keepers may not be aware that their birds are infected. This could allow the virus to spread widely and may cross over to humans. The vaccines developed for humans seem to be more effective in controlling the effects of bird flu.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Low stocking densities and quality feed are keys to good bird health

High levels of production and efficient feed conversion are needed if egg farms are to survive. Free range farms are able to maintain effective disease control when low stocking densities are maintained. It's essential for poultry health to provide high quality natural feed and clean water. A protein content of around 18% is required for hen health and good production. Organic acids and their salts have been used in poultry diets and drinking water for decades and seem to elicit a positive response in health and performance. An important objective of dietary acidification is the inhibition of intestinal bacteria competing for available nutrients, and a reduction of possible toxic bacteria resulting in better nutrient digestibility.

New standards don't lift free range egg numbers in the marketplace

The Australian Government's standards for free range egg labelling do nothing to meet consumer expectations about what 'free range' means. They certainly don't increase the numbers of free range eggs in the marketplace. They simply protect unscrupulous operators from prosecution by the ACCC when they label intensively produced eggs as 'free range'. The guidelines allow an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare which is many times the limits of land sustainability – or of consumer expectations.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Isa Browns are ideal free range hens

At freeranger eggs, we choose Isa Brown hens because they are ideal for free range production. They are docile and are prolific layers of brown-shelled eggs. They tend to lay all year, but production does drop during winter when there are less daylight hours. Some farmers install lights in the sheds to trick the hens into laying more – but we prefer the natural approach and let the hens have a rest as nature intended. Mostly an Isa Brown will lay between 300 and 350 eggs each year.
They are hybrid(mixed breed) birds which originated in France but do very well in Australian conditions. They generally start laying at 18 - 20 weeks old and lay for a year before going into a moult. They come back into lay after a rest of about a month.

Friday, April 28, 2017

ACCC action over milk - there may be more over eggs

It's great that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is taking Murray Goulburn to court for 'unconsionable conduct' in misleading dairy farmers over milk prices. Dairy farmers have been placed in an impossible position which has led to many being forced out of business. Politicians and bureaucrats have had a hand in this too. For years, dairy farmers have been told to 'Get Big or Get Out' so they have purchased adjoining farms and bought more cows to increase milk volumes for the factories. A similar issue is happening for egg farmers. Family egg farms may be forced to the wall by a political decision to allow intensive industrial producers to label eggs as 'free range. A decision has been made by all state and Federal Ministers for Consumer affairs to permit large-scale corporate producers running 10,000 hens per hectare to label the eggs they produce as 'free range'.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Big drop in egg production

The cold, wet weather here has caused a big drop in egg production at the farm. Clearly the chooks don't like the conditions. It means that we will have difficulty meeting our regular orders until production picks up again - but that's the lot of any free range egg farms if they are doing things properly. Makes it clear why so many keep their chooks locked up in climate controlled sheds.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Which came first - the chicken or the egg?

The answer to the age-old question about which came first is here: Science has spoken: the egg came first. The modern chicken is a domesticated descendant of the “Red Jungle fowl,” a bird native to the Himalayan foothills. Genetic experts have recently determined though, that there’s a bit of “Grey Jungle fowl” DNA mixed in as well, which accounts for the yellow legs found on the common chicken but not the Red J. Somewhere around 10,000 years ago, therefore – likely in a village or temporary camp in the vicinity of modern-day Thailand – the crossing of a wild Grey rooster with a tame Red hen (or vice versa) produced an egg from which emerged the first modern chicken. So unless the geneticists change their minds, it’s settled. Ten millennia later, this chick’s descendants have a reasonable claim to be the world’s most populous bird. Counting beaks in 2010, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation found 19.5 billion chickens, producing 1.1 trillion eggs annually. from the website Progressive Economy

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

We are in the Top 50 poultry blogs

We are proud to say that this blog is regarded as one of the world's top 50 poultry blogs. Best,

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Free range eggs in the UK were almost history

"Free-range" eggs were on the verge of disappearing from shelves in Britain as a result of the Government's bird flu housing order. Since December British-farmed poultry have been shut in barns under emergency measures to prevent the spread of avian influenza. The free range status of the hens locked in sheds was protected by UK law but by the end of February they had been inside for 12 weeks meaning that under EU laws they could no longer be sold as free range. The housing order banning birds from going outside was to be extended into March but instead the Government dropped the ban and most farms were allowsed to let their hens out. Until the change there was a real prospect that eggs previously from free range farms would have had to be re-labelled for sale as "barn eggs". There would be similar disruption here following major outbreaks of Avian Influenza. If the Government ordered all free range poultry to be locked in sheds, many of us would be forced out of business.Our hens are not beak trimmed, so if they were suddenly locked up in sheds, we would have a massive problem of cannibalism in our flocks.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Research into 'free range' meaning

Research conducted by Hannah Larsen and Dr Jean-Loup Rault, of Melbourne University has been helping to define what 'free range' means. Government standards such as 'meaningful and regular access to the outdoors' and a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare are completely inadequate and demonstrate how Ministers are corrupted by big business with intensive, industrial-scale production methods - that's not farming. The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has better guidelines, such as 'hens are able to move about freely on an open range on most days.The research by Melbourne University, funded by the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd was designed to demonstrate how many hens in a flock actually use the range area. The findings are published on the AECL website. See a summary here: https://www.aecl.org/assets/www.aecl.org/outputs/1UM121-Summary.pdf

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sunlight affects egg quality

Free range eggs are a good source of dietary vitamin D, each egg from hens that spend most of the day outdoors contains about 10% of the required daily value . The vitamin D is concentrated in the yolk. along with most other nutrients such as folic acid. Research in Britain has indicated that when hens are exposed to direct sunlight, they tend to lay paler shelled eggs. All eggs are initially white, and shell colour is the result of the pigments called porphyrins being deposited while the eggs are in the process of formation. In the case of the Rhode Island Red, the brown pigment,derived from haemoglobin in the blood, is what gives the shell its brown colour. Araucana hens produce a pigment called oocyanin, which is a product of bile formation, and results in blue or bluish-green shelled eggs. There is no relationship between egg quality and shell colour. Nutritionally they are the same, but it's always surprising how many people still think that brown eggs come from free-range hens while white ones come from caged hens!The nutritional difference is a result of feed and free access to pasture, grubs and insects

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Drilling starts on sand extraction site near Bass River

The peace and tranquility of life on the Freeranger farm, next to the Grantville Nature Conservation Reserve in West Gippsland seems set to be disrupted. A drilling rig appeared on a property next to us in Stanley Road on Tuesday afternoon. The site was purchased some years ago by a sand extraction company and permits were issued on the basis that there was an urgent need for additional sand resources to meet demand in Melbourne. one permit condition was that their extraction must not adversely impact on water flows through to the Bass River. Presumably the company is drilling in February in an effort to demonstrate that groundwater is limited. They are drilling on part of the site most likely to reveal no groundwater.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Farmers' markets losing their attraction in Victoria

Farmers' Markets seem to be losing their attraction in Victoria – probably because too many are now operating. In the early days they were useful vehicles for selling farm produce, but recently buyers have been put off by seeing markets set up all over the place, often with the same stallholders.The Department of Regional Development Victoria has splashed millions of taxpayers dollars in providing seeding grants for new markets which have sprung up like topsy. Producers are rebelling against exorbitant fees charged by some market managers. As a result of declining market sales, we no longer sell at farmers' markets. Churchill Island was our last farmers' market and when we complained that the new managers at Regional Farmers Markets Pty Ltd., were less than competent and needed to learn communication and marketing skills, they had a tantrum and banished us from the market. Didn't really matter because we were only waiting until after Easter to see if there was any prospect of improvement. We work on the basis that stall fees should be no more than 10% of the value of sales at a market. At $55 per stall, Churchill Island was not viable for most of the year. Extra markets held over the holiday period at Christmas and throughout January helped to make up the shortfall in the past. But with the change in management this year, the summer markets have not attracted customers in the numbers required – because the lack of promotion meant that few people knew that the extra markets were being held.With egg production running at a lay rate of over 90%, we need consistent sales and at a $55 stall fee, supplying shops and restaurants together with farm gate sales is a more viable proposition than attending markets.