Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fight over the name Egg Standards Australia

This could be the new logo and trade mark for the updated version of the Australian Egg Corporation's quality assurance program.
AECL claimed that all the paperwork was with the ACCC, but that was denied by the ACCC. There have been a number of objections to the proposed name and trade mark application and all the paperwork is still with IP Australia which says it is unlikely to make any decision before 2012.
It seems that Standards Australia will not be happy with the proposed name as it clearly implies that the standard has been developed by Standards Australia when it really is just an industry proposal cobbled together by a private company - the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd.
In its latest newsletter, AECL says that the new standards, logo and trade mark should be ready for approval by the Board in April (next month) and will be revealed to AECL members in May.
We somehow doubt that timeframe will be met. All previous deadlines have been missed and if this application isn't processed until next year, it will be back to the drawing board for the AECL!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big Berkley died today

Goodbye Berkley
Our beautiful big Berkley died today in one of the chook paddocks. He was the biggest of our Maremmas and was such a good natured dog.
He was around nine years old which is getting on for a Maremma. We were given him when he was around 15 months old because he had outgrown his suburban home. He weighed just on 60 kilos when we picked him up and could hardly walk because he was so fat.
He soon got into shape and had great fun chasing around with the other dogs and watching for foxes. But all he every really wanted to do was come in the house and stretch out in front of the open fire!
He had great eyesight and enjoyed gazing up at passenger jets cruising across the sky. It was just as much fun jumping up and grabbing some eucalyptus leaves as he walked down the drive with us.
Even though he had slimmed down, he was still a big dog and it took around three hours to dig a hole big enough for him.
Goodbye mate.We will miss you.

Egg Corp still can't get its new standard up

The Australian Egg Corp wanted to get its new bodgy egg standard up and running by December 2010 - then it was January 2011, then February/March - now the latest missive from Egg Corp says it won't be revealed to members until May!
Could it be that they have encountered massive problems getting the standard past its own Technical Advisory Committee? They may also be having problems with Standards Australia as well as JAS-ANZ and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Long may it last.
This is the latest info sent out to Egg Corp members:

The TAC met for two days last week with the aim of finalising the content of the proposed egg QA Standard. Due to the volume of discussion and critique of the current content by TAC members, this task was not completed as hoped. Therefore, the TAC is required to meet for another sitting in April to complete the task bestowed upon them.

As a guideline, currently it is anticipated that the egg QA Standard will be presented to the AECL Board at the April meeting for review. Pending a successful outcome, the Standard will then be launched to egg producers in May.

The egg standard program Rules are still with the ACCC hence the new name and logo for the Standard are yet to be confirmed and subsequently made available to egg producers.
It seems that AECL is trying adopt the name 'Egg Standards Australia' for its new QA program. It seems highly unlkely that such a name will be approved as it will clearly mislead consumers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eggs are one of the healthy foods

Eggs have received a bad reputation over the years. Every now and then they are declared to be a healthy, wholesome food and then they are blamed for raising cholesterol. Now, eggs are once again in vogue - which demonstrates that 'expert' advice depends on which 'expert' you listen to.

It's clear that eggs are not eggs. Free Range Eggs are not just any eggs. Free range eggs are enjoying greater attention now because customers realise that farmers like us, who raise the hens in the traditional way, allowing them to roam over pasture without confining them in sheds or cutting off their beaks so they can't forage properly, are producing food which meets their nutritional and ethical requirements.

There is now a heap of evidence about the health benefits of eating real free range eggs compared with the cage counterparts or eggs from the equivalent intensive 'free range' systems. As a result some factory farm operators, supported  by their industry bully (sorry body) are doing everything they can to close us all down.

Unfortunately there is also some mis-information out there suggesting that yolk colour is the only guide for genuine free range eggs. Some say: 'crack a free range egg in one bowl and a normal farm factory egg in another. Compare the appearances of the eggs to one another. The yolk of the free range egg is a deep vibrant yellow-orange colour whereas the factory egg is a wimpy yellow colour.'

It would be great if it was that simple. However it's all too easy to manipulate yolk colour. Chemical companies make  large profits from selling colouring additives to egg producers to ensure 'a deep vibrant yellow-orange colour' in the yolk. Probably all the cage and barn laid eggs produced in Australia are laid by hens which are fed colouring additives.

In the natural environment, the colour differentiation is due to the high beta carotene content in the free range yolk – over six times more than factory eggs, unless the feed includes colouring. Natural beta carotene, also known as vitamin A, is just one of many benefits free range eggs offer consumers. However, yolk colour should vary, depending on what the birds eat. If your egg yolks are always the same you are eating additives.

Vitamin D and E Benefits and More

The USDA has measured the nutrients in free range eggs and has found that the vitamin D levels were as much as six times higher than the average in factory eggs! Eggs are one of the few natural ways to obtain vitamin D through food sources. The vitamin E levels were almost four times the average of factory eggs. Vitamin D and vitamin E are both essential nutrients for optimal brain, heart, skin and immune system operation.

There are other benefits of free range eggs too. For instance, they have 33% less cholesterol than their factory farm egg counterparts. In addition, there is 25% less saturated fat and two times the average omega three fatty acids. Just eating two free ranges eggs could virtually satisfy the minimum daily requirements for vitamin D.

Another myth is that the viscosity of the egg white is always an indication of the freshness of an egg. It's true that a runny white is often an indication of staleness - but that's not always the case. Diet can have an impact on the albumen and so can the age of the hen.  As hens get older, the eggs whites can become more runny even when they have just been laid , which is one reason most farms get rid of their hens at the end of the first laying deason.

Why Free Range Eggs are Best

Free range chickens are allowed to roam freely eating insects and grass throughout the day.  They are constantly exposed to daily sunshine and fresh air.

When chickens are allowed to roam freely, their eggs are more nutritious because they are allowed to eat food with nutritional value like the green grass and bugs. This produces omega 3 rich eggs, plenty of vitamins and less cholesterol and saturated fat. The great news is that free range eggs have no more calories than the average factory farm egg but do have three or more times the nutritional value.

Factory farm hens do not have a varied diet. They can only eat what is provide in the farm's automatied system - the same day in and day out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Food from grass-fed animals is best for your health

Research on essential fatty acids has only been available for a few years and it really hasn't been getting the press it deserves. The main results of the research shows that by concentrating animal feeds using grains, instead of grasses, our corporate feed producers have manipulated the food chain so much that degenerative diseases are now a greater part of our future.

This is because our essential fatty acids, which control myriad bodily functions, fall into two families: the Omega-3's and the Omega-6's. The Omega 3 group comes from the leaves of green plants (and plankton in the ocean), while the Omega 6 group comes from seeds, such as grain used in animal feeds. Animals that eat quantities of green plants have very high levels of Omega 3 which are not seen in animals fed largely on grain.

Ideally, we should have about equal amounts of Omega 3 and Omega 6 in our bodies, or at maximum, not much more than twice the Omega 6 as Omega 3. But many Australians have ten times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 – a result of the widespread use of grains in fattening cattle.

The way we can all rectify this imbalance is to only eat animal products raised on grass. Don't buy grain fed beef raised in feedlots, don't buy farmed fish which has been fattened on grain and don't buy eggs from caged hens, those in barns, or so-called 'free range' hens which have been beak trimmed.

If the tips of the hens' beaks have been cut off, they can't eat grass, worms and the bugs which form a vital part of their natural diet. They can only eat the feed provided for them in automated feeding systems - which is exactly the same diet as hens in cages.

So only buy eggs from farms which are accredited by the Free Range Farmers Association – it's the only way you can be sure that the eggs really are free range.

If you would like a bit more info just ask, or check out this link:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Quiet hens roaming on pasture

Early morning with the chooks  -  and Angus

There's plenty of grass around this year. We've had a tremendous season so far and the chooks have maintained around a 90% lay rate for most of the summer.
Right now, with the latest batch of pullets we have 1200 hens on the farm - so that's keeping us pretty busy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Who said chooks can't fly?

Here's Myrtle, hurtling through the air looking for a soft landing in the grass!!!  She can fly at least 100 metres in level flight and around 20 metres vertically.

Most very young hens (pullets) can fly well because of their low body weight and they frequently fly up into trees (at least they do here). But this is a mature bird who loves to fly.

She not quite able to soar with the eagles, but she wouldn't stand for the sort of nonsense on Mrs Tweedy's farm in the film Chickenrun.

Maybe we should enter her in a competition adjudicated by the Guiness Book of Records.

Friday, March 11, 2011

De-beaking still widespread - even on 'free range' farms

The de-beaking, or beak trimming of chicks is still widespread in Australia. It has been estimated that more than 95% of the hens in this country have been beak trimmed by hot blade or laser equipment.
Even most so-called 'free range' farms de-beak their birds - because they are intensive systems where the birds are confined.
hot blade beak trimming
Laser trimming of chicks
On a true free range farm with stocking densities which meet the requirements of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry (that is a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 birds per hectare) beak trimming is completely unnecessary. If the Australian Egg Corporation succeeds in implementing a new standard for free range production which allows a stocking density of 20,000 birds per hectare, it will also allow beak trimming as a matter of course.
It's only when hens are confined in large numbers that beak trimming can be regarded as 'necessary' on welfare grounds or any other basis.  With proper management, beak trimming is not required and indeed quite a number of countries have already banned the practice.
There's more on alternatives to beak trimning at
As I've said here many times, the only way buyers can be sure that eggs are really free range, is to look for the logo of the Free Range Farmers Association. If your supplier is a member of FRFA, you know that the farm meets the most strict standards in the industry. Far more welfare friendly than RSPCA standards which approve the de-beaking of hens. 
The current fuss over Coles decision to drop the price of its home brand 'free range' eggs is quite funny really, as the eggs labelled as 'free range' are produced on intensive farms where the hens are de-beaked - they do not meet consumer expectations.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scientists have 'discovered' that chickens are capable of empathy

In yet another example of strange research, scientists have come up with the remarkable conclusion that chickens are capable of feeling empathy!

They seemed to believe that only humans have emapthatic tendancies. They obviously haven't observed the concerns a cow has for a calf which is in pain, or a bitch for a dying pup, or one of our guardian dogs for a hen or sheep which is in trouble.

Who funds these turkeys!!!!!
If you can be bothered, have a look at

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Economics is a dirty word

Ben Bernanke
I've been farming for thirty years, but before that I was a finance journalist and it was interesting uncovering the greed of our leading corporate citizens and the stupidty of people involved in running our economic systems.

Every day it seems to be increasingly clear that world economies are facing collapse. The current unrest in arab countries is just one example – and there are serious implications for us all.

Once the major economies went off the gold standard (effectively rejecting the notion that a nation's currency should be underpinned by gold reserves), the rot set in.

The helter-skelter of boom and bust was inevitable with each crash likely to be bigger than the last. Governments tried to maintain growth by fiddling with taxes, introducing crocks like compulsory superannuation and diverting the population by the old trick of starting wars whenever they felt like it, but the costs were always greater than the benefits which were achieved (leaving aside the human pain and suffering).

The recent 'Global Financial Meltdown' caused by corporate greed and government inaction will pale into insignificance when the next crunch happens – and it could be anytime.

When the United States dollar loses its status as the world's reserve currency, its frantic printing of dollar bills and its overwhelming debt levels will lead to an ugly exchange rate. The result will be hyper-inflation on commodities such as food and there are likely to be yet more revolutions in the world!

Going back through thousands of years of economic history there is clearly one fact: No country has ever printed its way to prosperity, all who have tried have wound up with hyperinflation, war or have simply slipped into oblivion (sometimes all three).

With someone like Ben Bernanke pulling the financial strings in the US, the outcome is inevitable and unfortunately the US collapse will take the rest of the world with it.

It will probably take 20 years for some kind of order to be re-established and unquestionably it will be a very different world to the one we know.

Things like tax-effective accounting, margin loans, derivative debt, tax havens, market mechanisms, the economic imperative, negative gearing, futures trading, deficit spending and corporate greed will be seen as some of the evils which brought the empire down.

The only economy which has succeded long term is the village economy. Happy to talk to you anytime if you'd like more info..

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Meat producers and Australian Egg Corporation strange bedfellows

It's hard for egg producers to understand why the Australian Egg Corporation has squealed so much about the decision by Coles to cut the price of its home brand 'free range' eggs.

Surely Coles has a right to determine its pricing structures? And it's entirely up to suppliers if they want to sell anything to Coles.

Now the AECL, using the Australian Egg Industry Association as a vehicle, has formed a coalition with Australian Dairy Farmers and the Cattle Council of Australia, to submit an application to the Australian Farmers’ Fighting Fund administered by the National Farmers’ Federation, to undertake joint action against Coles Supermarkets for what they say is 'their immoral and unethical treatment and lack of regard for Australian agriculture'.

What a load of cobblers!

The meat guys are upset at the Coles decision to only sell beef free of hormone growth promotants – seen by many as a sensible and very welcome move. Soon after Coles made that announcement, the meat industry went into damage control, claiming that hormone growth promotants used in the beef industry were always safe and did not have any impact on human health.

Meat and Livestock Australia quickly produced information on HGPs claiming that people would have to eat 77kg of HGP-treated beef to consume the same amount of hormones that can be found in one egg!

If the meat industry is kicking the egg industry, what does AECL think it's doing joining forces with them to attack Coles for making a business decision which makes sense for consumers?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Performance Review of the Australian Egg Corporation

A performance review of the Australian Egg Corporation is currently underway as part of the requirements of the Statutory Funding Agreement (SFA) between AECL and the Australian Government. An independent performance review must be undertaken of AECL's strategies, plans, governance, investments, programs and consultation since 2007.
The Corporation (which is a private company) has appointed the services of AgEconPlus Pty Ltd to undertake the review. As part of this review the principle consultant, Michael Clarke, has been contacting egg producers to seek their views on the operations and results of AECL.
If any egg producers wish to make their views known on how they think AECLhas performed in recent years, speak to Michael on (02) 9817 5888 or email him on
I have already had discussions with him - particularly about AECL's lack of representation of the free range sector, the proposed new 'free range' standard, and the need for the free range industry to receive funding directly from the chick levy for promotional purposes

Friday, March 04, 2011

New flock of pullets

Our new flock of 300 Isa Brown pullets arrived today.We settled them in to two of our mobile sheds in Monte's (one of the Maremmas) paddock.
While we were unloading the young hens into the sheds it starting raining (of course) - so once we had finished, the delivery ute and trailer had to be towed out of the paddock by our trusty Chinese tractor. The grass was just too wet for the ute to get enough traction.
The youngsters will help to build up our business now that Anne has time to work on the farm full time. It will be more productive than beating her head against a wall, which is what she has been doing  in the last year or so working for Trust for Nature.
The Trust was great in the early years, but it has lost its way in recent times and it's now anyone's guess if it will survive.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A busy day on the farm

Today was one of those days. Strong winds, rain, a couple of sheep with fly strike, a journalist came this morning to do an interview for a magazine article and this afternoon we had our annual audit for the Free Range Farmers Association.

I think I'll have a coffee now and go to bed to watch some DVD's of the old Avengers TV series!

At least our egg production is holding up well and we don't have any problems meeting all the orders. We don't have a market this weekend so with a bit of luck I should be able to cruise for the next couple of days.

Anne retires from her part time job with Trust for Nature this week, so she will on the farm full time which will make things considerably easier and should mean that we can get our veggie garden back in shape. It has been sadly neglected for the past year or so.