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.  

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