Sunday, October 31, 2010

The nutritional benefits of eggs

More studies need to be done, but there is growing evidence that eggs from hens raised on pasture have nutritional benefits over the factory farm versions.

In 1974, the British Journal of Nutrition found that pastured eggs had 50 percent more folic acid and 70 percent more vitamin B12 than eggs from factory farm hens.

In 1988, Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, found pastured eggs in Greece contained 13 times more Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than U.S. commercial eggs. A 1998 study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found that pastured eggs had higher Omega 3 and vitamin E than eggs from caged hens.

A 1999 study by Barb Gorski at Pennsylvania State University found that eggs from pastured birds had 10 percent less fat, 34 percent less cholesterol, 40 percent more vitamin A, and four times the Omega 3 compared to the standard USDA data.

In 2003, Heather Karsten at Pennsylvania State University found that pastured eggs had three times more Omega 3, 220 percent more vitamin E and 62 percent more vitamin A than eggs from caged hens.

In 2007, the US magazine Mother Earth News analysed eggs from 14 free range flocks and compared the results to nutritional data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for commercial eggs, the kind found in most supermarkets.

The free range eggs had:
- 1⁄3 less cholesterol
- 1⁄4 less saturated fat
- 2⁄3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more Omega 3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene

But be careful when buying 'free-range' eggs. As long as hens have 'access to an outdoor run' producers are able call their eggs free-range. What this usually means is that there is a small opening where hens could go outside, regardless of whether or not they ever do. In most cases a better description would be 'non-cage eggs'.

Often you can visibly tell the difference, but yolk colour is not always a good guide. Pastured yolks are a rich orange color from the beta-carotene in the plants (as long as there is plenty of green feed in the paddocks). Eggs from a genuine free range farm will vary in yolk colour – depending on the time of year and the amount of green feed available. If the yolk colour is always the same, you can be sure that colouring additives are included in the hens' feed.

It's up to you as the consumer to find out how the chickens are being raised and what they're being fed. One way is to look for the logo of the Free Range Farmers Association which gives you a guarantee that the hens are not de-beaked and that the farm meets hen welfare and strict stocking density requirements. Talk to producers at farmers' markets and find out how they manage their flocks and make sure you are comfortable with the way your eggs are produced.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

'Free Range' research

The egg industry is still in turmoil over proposals by big producers to push the Australian Egg Corporation into changing the standards for 'free range' egg production. The chairman of the Australian Egg Corporation, Jeff Ironside, said in a letter to the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia Inc. that the draft standard had been prepared after 'reviewing 13 international standards and benchmarking current practice in Australia'.

What he failed to add was that none of the standards reviewed by AECL reflected the ludicrous stocking density of up to 20,000 chickens per hectare which it proposed. So, in effect, AECL ignored all the international standards and came up with a scheme which the corporate players wanted.

Make no mistake, eggs are big business and the big end of town wants to make a killing. They can see huge profits in being able to label their eggs as 'free range' without having to do the work associated with running free range flocks.

Mr Ironside also had comments to make on the validity of the consumer survey conducted by the Free Range Farmers Association. He said that AECL's market research consultants found that the research undertaken by FRFA 'cannot be considered as an accurate research exercise'.

Funny that. Free Range Farmers don't think that the survey conducted for the AECL is accurate either.

The difference is that we asked people who actually buy free range eggs what they thought, whereas AECL pulled in anyone to get the result they wanted.

And even worse than that. We gave AECL our research data so they could analyse it. AECL undertook to give us their data – but we are still waiting four months after it was promised. They obviously have a great deal to hide and don't want any scrutiny of their research.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Consumers beware

' I don't care whether the consumer considers that free range birds are not debeaked.

They aren't farmers and have no clue as to what us farmers have to endure.' - Con Tamvakis Victorian egg farmer. Member of the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd

It's hard to believe but I received an email this morning (with the above quote) from a Victorian egg farmer who clearly thinks that customers don't count and should just shut up and hand over their money!!!!

Any businessman who ignores what his customers want is heading for trouble - and unfortunately the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd is leading some of its members down that path as we have no indication that the draft 'free range' egg production standard will be significantly modified prior to its launch before the AECL annual meeting in Adelaide at the end of November.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Egg Corp AGM and Industry Forum

The Australian Egg Corporation's Industry Forum and Annual Meeting will be held in Adelaide this year, on November 24 and 25.

AECL staff have been keen to ensure there will be no debate on proposed changes for 'free range' standards. But that might not succeed as I have challenged James Kellaway (AECL Managing Director) to list statements made by people opposed to the draft standard which he alleges are 'half truths'.

In his column in the industry newsletter Eggstra Eggstra Mr Kellaway made the following assertions:

"Given the research undertaken to date, AECL continues to liaise with industry and consult with egg producers over the draft minimum standards in order to be more objective and measurable on key production parameters for each of the three recognised production systems. AECL is seeking to build industry credibility, accountability and transparency for all Australian egg producers during this process, not diminish it. It has been unfortunate that some egg producers, during this industry consultative phase, have decided to react and 'attack' the draft minimum standards by approaching the media for their own ends and political means by telling half truths and colourful language."

Those assertions have not been substantiated and I challenged his allegations in an email which was copied to many people in the egg industry. There has been significant support from producers all over Australia and others in all sectors of the industry. Some of them I have worked with, but most of them I have never met.
The ball is now in Mr Kellaway's court.
It's sad that the AECL has taken the approach of only focussing on the needs of big business. It's actions demonstrate that it ignores small producers, environmental issues and the views of consumers.

An example of its attitude to the environment is there for all to see on the front of its AGM leaflet. Emblazened across the bottom is the quote:

'We can't impede progress in the name of environmental action that yields little for the environment and even less for our people.. and we should look at the environment as an economic opportunity.' from Meg Whitman who plans to run as governor of California for the Republican Party.

I don't quibble about 'little for the environment and even less for people' ...  that is clearly what she sees as a legitimate view. BUT  'looking at the environment as an economic opportunity' shows a total lack of understanding about the world in which we all live.

We all breath air, we all drink water (well most of us) and it's hard to understand that some of our 'leaders' don't care about future generations. Maybe Meg Whitman and James Kellaway should read Soylent Green.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

FREAL - is it real free range?

It seems that another 'free range' egg association has been formed - presumably as a result of the Australian Egg Corporation's plans to relax production standards for free range farms.
We have no idea what standards or inspection criteria will be used by the Free Range Egg Association Ltd as details have not been released.
The logo on the left has been registered as a trade mark by two businesses closely associated with the Victorian Farmers Federation. One of the businesses is an established cage farm and the other is a consulting firm run by a former senior executive of a major egg packaging and processing company.
It will be interesting to read their standards when they are available so we can all judge how 'real' they are.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ACCC takes no action against AECL

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has replied to the complaint lodged against the 'mislabelling' of free range eggs approved by the Australian Egg Corporation.
Here's part of the response:

I understand from your email that you are concerned by a study that has found that only 9% of ‘free range’ chickens actually use the range area and that the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd are trying to change the amount of chickens allowed per hectare in free range farming.

The ACCC is an independent statutory authority responsible for ensuring compliance with the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) (TPA). The main purpose of the TPA is to promote competition and efficiency in markets within Australia, and to protect consumers and businesses from unlawful anti-competitive conduct or misleading and deceptive practices. The ACCC's role includes fostering fair and informed markets by seeking compliance with the TPA.
The ACCC does not have a definition of what constitutes ‘free range’ eggs under the TPA. These definitions are generally set by certification bodies. You may wish to seek further information from Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia.
However food and beverage labelling may potentially breach the consumer protection provisions of the TPA if the label conveys a misleading or deceptive impression or representation (through words, pictures or other means) or a claim can not be substantiated. Section 52 of the TPA is a broad provision which prohibits a corporation, in trade or commerce, engaging in conduct which is misleading or deceptive, or which is likely to mislead or deceive. Whether particular conduct is misleading or deceptive is a question of fact to be determined in the context of the evidence as to the alleged conduct and to the relevant surrounding facts and circumstances.

The AECL version of 'free range' egg production does not meet the standards of the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia Inc. or of Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia Ltd - so I have no idea why the ACCC would suggest contacting them (anyway as I am spokesman for FREPAA Inc I am already well aware of the standards).

It seems that the ACCC will only consider taking action if it gets a flood of complaints from consumers - so log on to the ACCC website and complain away!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

'Free range' complaint lodged with Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

After discussions with a number of free range and cage egg producers, today I lodged a complaint against the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd with the ACCC over its endorsement of 'free range' egg production standards.

Research which is publicly available on the website of the Poultry CRC (which is funded from a levy paid by all egg producers) shows that only 9% of 'free range' egg laying hens actually use an outdoor range area. The details can be seen at

In our view, this clearly demonstrates that consumers are being mislead and deceived by a system that is endorsed and approved by the Australian Egg Corporation.

And the industry recognises that things will become even more deceptive if the AECL goes ahead with its draft 'free range' standard. The Egg Corporation tries to pretend that's it's only a small number of 'troublemakers' who are voicing concerns - but the reality is that even big cage farmers recognise that the AECL's proposed definition for 'free range' is a crock which will harm the reputation of the whole industry.

The AECL seems hell-bent on sending the message to consumers that 'You can't trust labels on eggs'

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Getting 'free range' on the political agenda

With the Victorian State Election fast approaching, we hope to get 'truth in labelling' and a meaningful definition of the term 'free range' on the political agenda.

Both are substantially Federal issues but our State Minister for Agriculture can play an active role at Ministerial council level.

Queensland has introduced regulations limiting stocking densities on farms claiming to be free range to 1500 hens per hectare – and there's no reason our State Government can't do the same.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Food Inc screening

I will be taking part in a panel discussion following the screening of the film Food Inc in Williamstown (Melbourne) on Tuesday night.

Food Inc is an eye-opening expose of the modern food industry, and is essential viewing for any health-conscious citizen.

‘The industry doesn’t want you to know the truth about what you are eating, because if you did, you might not want to eat it,’’ is a key message in the film

Food, inc. has been described as 'The Inconvenient Truth' of food. This shockumentary graphically and disturbingly reveals the unintended consequences of the concentration of food production to just a handful of massive companies, with processed genetically modified corn and soy as the basis of the national diet.

THIS is an important film. It’s a warning. Don’t follow the US down the path of food self-regulation.

The details are:
Tuesday October 5, 2010
7.15 pm
Williamstown Mechanics Institute
Cnr Melbourne Rd & Electra St.
The screening is fully booked but there is a waiting list in case of cancellations.