Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Age Epicure shows the reality of 'free range' production

This week The Age in Melbourne published an excellent article in Epicure about the way chickens should be kept on real 'free range' farms. The key question for anyone to ask if they want to know if the birds really are 'free range' is to find out if the hens are de-beaked (or beak trimmed is the industry's preferred term because they think it sounds more acceptable).
There is absolutely no need for hens to be debeaked if they are truly free range - it's only when they are kept in intensive conditions that they become aggressive and attack each other.
The timing of this article was perfect as it reinforces the current fight by genuine free range farmers with the Australian Egg Corporation over its outrageous proposal to redefine standards for stocking rates to allow massive factory farms to call their eggs 'free range'. Part of that new standard also allows de-beaking as a normal practice.
If you buy eggs from any producer who is not a member of the Free Range Farmers Association (or is a certified organic producer) - the hens who laid those eggs have probably been de-beaked.
The Epicure article listed the differing standards of various accreditation bodies and the Free Range Farmers Association Inc and the organic certification bodies are the only organisaisations which prohibit debeaking.
The Australian Egg Corporation's Egg Corp Assured program, the RSPCA and Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia Ltd allow de-beaking in their versions of 'free range'.

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