Monday, December 04, 2017
Intensive egg production facilities dominate in Australia but there's still a place for traditional free range family farms
The increasing scale of large, intensive egg production facilities is demonstrated in this article published by Poultry Hub.There are now very few traditional free range farms left in Australia because of Government red tape and pressure from big business.Only the massive corporate businesses have sufficient volumes to meet the requirements of major supermarkets - so it's a waste of time looking in supermarkets if people want genuine free range eggs. In Australia, the chicken layer industry, or egg industry, is an important intensive animal production system. The egg industry has displayed strong growth over the past decade due to rising per capita consumption of eggs (a little over 200 eggs per year/person). Egg is considered as an alternative source of protein to meat. Eggs have four broad production types: cage, free-range, barn-laid and organic. Backyard egg production is also common in Australia and is closely tied in with Australians fondness of poultry. Over the past five years, there has been increasing demand for free range eggs due to welfare issues in cage egg production system. Free-range egg production system allows hens to roam freely over a greater area, including outdoors. The industry is gradually moving from cage egg production system to free-range egg production system in Australia. Chicken eggs and egg products have traditionally been, and still are, a popular part of the human diet. The egg is formed in the reproductive organs of the female chicken. Most commercial strains of hen can lay over 260 eggs per year and some improved breeds can lay over 300 eggs in a year – this is almost an egg every day. It is not necessary for a hen to mate with a rooster before she can produce an egg. Modern types of hen have been bred so that they will lay even if there is no chance of producing a chick. Layer chicks are sexed and the females are sold as future layers and the males are humanely killed. Production of eggs to meet Australian demand Eggs are collected as soon as possible after being laid and are held in cool storage to protect internal quality. Farmers check eggs for quality using a special lighting (candling) system. Cracked or weak-shelled eggs and other abnormal eggs are discarded. A sample of each batch of collected eggs is checked for internal quality and freshness. The eating value of eggs has long been recognised. An egg contains 12% shell (which is not eaten), however the remainder of the egg is a mix of protein, energy, minerals and vitamins. This means that eggs are a highly nutritious food that forms part of a good mixed diet. Eggs contain the substance cholesterol, which has been seen in the past as an undesirable characteristic. However, this issue has been simplified as there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ forms of cholesterol and eggs have been shown to increase the ‘good’ form of cholesterol in the blood of people who consume eggs (Djousse and Gaziano (2008) AJCN, 87(4):964-969). Reports suggest that consumption of eggs everyday is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. Eggs also contain many other beneficial fats and amino acids. Some producers have marketed specialty eggs which are fat modified (omega-3 enriched). This is done by feeding hens on a specially selected diet. Systems used to produce eggs The farmer who produces eggs is commonly referred to as an egg producer. Extensive Back yard layers There was once a time when every farm and many suburban households had a few chooks scavenging in the yard, getting some household scraps, and sometimes getting a handful of wheat each day. This method of farming is called extensive. The number of these farms decreased as intensive farming methods developed, allowing one person to care for large numbers of birds. Semi-intensive Until the 1950s, commercial egg producers had a few hundred to a few thousand hens housed in a shed with access to a yard surrounded by a 2 m high wire netting fence to keep foxes away. These were called semi-intensive farms and were often located in country areas close to the source of feed ingredients, especially wheat. Similar semi-intensive farms of a few thousand birds had become popular on the outskirts of major cities by the middle of the 1950s. This location was favoured because it was closer to the city market, where most eggs were sold. Intensive Intensive production means large numbers of animals are kept in a small area. With the introduction of layer Free-range can still be intensive cages in the 1960s, farms became more intensive and larger flocks, up to 15,000 birds, became common. In 1979, there were 3200 layer farms in Australia but by 1986 this number had reduced to 1700. A few very large farms, with up to 100,000 birds, developed in the 1970s. Today some farms have over 500,000 hens in multiple level sheds.