Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chicca's almost back to normal

Chicca is now reaonably happy after a hard few weeks
This was Chicca going for a stroll with me this morning. She hasn't recovered completely yet and is still on antibiotics twice a day - but she's doing well. The picture isn't brilliant because I took it with my mobile phone.
Her weight is back to almost 70kgs after dropping around 15kgs when she picked up the infection.She is still spending most of her days indoors, and I doubt she will appreciate being returned to guard duties once she's fully recovered.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Free Range Farmers Association on Facebook

The Free Range Farmers Association now has a facebook page at

The Association accredits free range egg farms in Victoria which meet its standards. Inspections of every member farm are conducted annually to ensure the standards are being continuously met.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slow combustion cooking

Bread - just out of the oven
Because of the cold weather, we have fired up the slow combustion stove - so we are using that now instead of the electric oven.
Great for stews, roasts and just about everything - even bread.
Temperature control is a bit iffy for bread, but it does work as this photo shows.
It's great coming down to the kitchen early in the morning to a warm room and being able to have a hot drink from the kettle sitting on the stove.
Makes it a pleasure to get up even on a freezing morning!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Consumer deception on a grand scale

Here's an excellent article by Steve Pennells, published in today's West Australian:
Reality lost down on the farm
The most expensive eggs in the supermarket last week came courtesy of Giuseppe, a third-generation egg farmer who lives with his wife, Victoria, and daughter, Annie, on their family farm built from scratch more than 70 years ago on their own "little piece of Australia".

It’s heart-warming stuff, told by Giuseppe on the egg carton in intricate detail, illustrated with family photos and his gratitude for "supporting our family". Sadly he says, Giuseppe Sr, who started the farm in 1948 is no longer with us. But Nonna still lives in the family home. There’s a black and white picture of her there too, laughing next to Giuseppe Sr in happier times.

Except it’s not Nonna and Poppa. The people in the picture never farmed eggs and never set foot in Australia. They’re also not Italian migrants.

The image is a US Library of Congress picture of two Polish immigrant tobacco farmers in Connecticut who were battling poverty in post-Depression America when the photo was taken in 1940.

Almost nothing else on this $7 carton of eggs is real, either.

Despite the family photos and heart-warming history Giuseppe and his family don’t exist.

Even the four happy chooks pictured clucking in the meadow next to the family photos are on foreign grass. That image is a widely used stock US photo which can also be found as the cover of the book Animal Philosophy a weighty tome on animal ethics with a chapter by Nietzsche.

"It’s not misleading," says Brian Ahmed, the managing director of LT’s Egg Farms, which distributes the Down on The Farm gourmet free-range eggs.

"How does it mislead? It’s the story of a family and that farmer is very common with almost every egg farmer in Australia." When contacted about the eggs this week, Mr Ahmed, who also happens to be president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, said Giuseppe’s story was not a lie.

SP: But they (the family) don’t exist.

BA: But the story of egg farmers if you go to every egg farmer in Australia you’ll find that is a similar story where they’ve all been passed on through generations of families that have grown up on egg farms.

SP: So you don’t think people would believe that’s where the eggs are coming from? BA: Well, that’s exactly what’s happening, mate.

SP: Really? So Giuseppe’s grandparents set up an egg farm in 1948? BA: Well, the date might be different but every farm has been set up in the 40s and 50s and it’s passed on in generations and now you find the children are running those farms.

He settles on the term "symbolic" to describe the company’s creative use of fictitious characters, emotive words and archive photos from the US Library of Congress to create the impression that a close-knit Italian migrant family in Australia was responsible for producing a pack of eggs sitting on the shelves of WA supermarkets.

"I can’t say if that’s (the photo) the actual people because what happens is we have a farmer in Western Australia suppling those eggs and we have a Victorian farmer in Victoria doing the same     thing," Mr Ahmed says.

Well, it’s definitely not anyone from WA or Victoria or any other egg farmer in Australia.

That picture of a Mr and Mrs Andrew Lyman, who set up a tobacco farm in America, was taken in September 1940 by Jack Delano, a photographer for the US Farm Security Administration, an organisation set up in the Depression to combat American rural poverty They farmed some vegetables too, but definitely no eggs.

The images and Giuseppe’s whole fabricated story feed into long-outdated myths surrounding the food that gets on our plate.

Photos of happy chickens frolicking across a meadow like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music are products of a time long since gone and belie the grim reality of an industry of mass production.

One of the most interesting things about the whole Australian-Indonesian cattle fiasco is that while we’ve rightly felt outrage at the images of what happened to our cattle overseas, no one has felt the need to look at the Australian food industry with a critical eye or any sort of introspection.

Phrases like "free range" conjure images that don’t match the reality of intensive farming.

Free-range eggs are produced on an industrial scale and some come from flocks of up to 120,000 birds housed in huge sheds that may never find the door to go outside.

Their eggs come off conveyor belts. There is also no national standard defining what constitutes a free-range egg so those labels and their inflated prices should be treated with scepticism. Still, we’re willing to pay more for them because it eases our guilt.

The very reason Giuseppe was concocted is because we still like to subscribe to the romantic notion that the food we eat got to our plate in the best, most ethical and humane ways.

There’s a reason that Australian abattoirs and producers have always been reluctant to have photographs taken in their slaughter operations. They might be operating to best practice but even at best practice, the bloody reality of a slaughter floor is not a pretty place.

The West Australian’s resident food guru, Rob Broacifield, bemoans the consumer naivety: "We have become infantilised toward food production by our increasing distance from it it’s the reason pork consumption plummeted when the movie Babe was released and while many adults express squeamishness in child-like terms when faced with eating, say a f1uffy cute rabbit".

The pressure to work fast - time is money - means that the animals suffer. No one who eats meat can escape responsibility for that, unless perhaps you rear your own animals and slaughter them on the farm." The message is simple: if you eat the meat, take off the blinkers and take ownership of the reality It’s enough to make Giuseppe Sr roll over in his imaginary grave.

Postscript: Brian Ahmed confirmed late yesterday that Giuseppe and his imaginary family would be erased from the future egg cartons, saying the company had no intention to mislead.

Complain to everyone you can think of !!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Truth in Labelling for NSW?

New South Wales' Greens upper house member, Dr John Kaye has introduced his long awaited plan to define 'free range' and limit the consumer deception which is rife in the egg industry all over Australia.
His draft Truth in Labelling Bill sets a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 birds per hectare (in line with the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Poultry) and also bans the widespread practice of beak trimming birds which are claimed to be 'free range'.
Predictably, the Australian Egg Corporation doesn't like it because it wants to maintain and increase intensive production processes and allow major egg businesses to keep labelling their eggs as 'free range'.

AECL says:
'The draft, titled ‘Truth in Labelling (Free-range Eggs) Bill 2011’, would see free range hen densities reduced to unsustainable levels for a number of egg producers and would also ban legitimate forms of marketing for caged egg producers.
Despite the free range stocking densities suggested by Dr Kaye’s draft Bill representing levels that are currently farmed by some egg farmers, it dismisses the legitimate practices of others. While AECL firmly believes there needs to be a cap on the outside densities for free range production, the cap being suggested in the draft Bill is unsustainable and unrealistic. The commercial realities of free range egg production mean that the suggested low density in the draft Bill would result in the industry not meeting the current demand for free range eggs. AECL is to send a letter to MLC's and MLA's advising them of the consequences of the draft.'

The Egg Corporation is wrong. The stocking densities proposed in the Bill are clearly commercial as there are many free range egg farms currently operating to those standards. The stocking levels outlined in the Bill meet consumer expectations and hopefully buyers of free range eggs, as well as the many genuine free range farmers in New South Wales, will write or talk to their MLC's and MLA's urging them to support this Bill.
The NSW legislation could be the first step in a national definition of the term 'free range' if we can get the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig to make a decision.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

New FSANZ egg standards to include egg stamping

The new egg standards being introduced by Food Standards Australia and New New Zealand (FSANZ) includes a requirement for all eggs to carry a stamp identifying which farm they are from.
The big operators don't care, they have all the equipment standing by and all they have to do is push a button.
The small operators (like us) don't really mind - it just adds to the daily grind. When I say we don't mind too much - that is as long as the rule applies to everyone selling eggs. Backyard operators who have no idea of food safety procedures are the biggest threat to consumers and if they sell eggs they should have to meet all the same standards.
It's the mid sized operators who are squealing loudest about egg stamping and claiming that it will cost them $20,000 - $30,000 to implement. What they are really worried about is that stamping individual eggs will identify them and hamper egg substitution.
The Australian Egg Corporation could move to clean up the industry, and it will be interesting to see how it responds to the new FSANZ requirements which we are told will be implemented in 18 months. But the AECL usually closes its eyes to the reality of the egg industry, just lke the Meat and Livestock Corporation to the treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs.
AECL has admitted that currently some 'free range' egg producers have stocking densities of 40,000 birds per hectare even though the Model Code recommends a maximum density of 1500. Its only response has been to try to introduce a new standard which allows intensive farms to be called 'free range'.