Thursday, July 27, 2017

Big producers 'conned' politicians over 'free range' standard

A report by Melbourne University in the Journal of Rural Studies shows how big producers in the egg industry pushed politicians to agree to the definition of 'free range' that suited their intensive businesses. Australia’s egg industry was able to “capture” the development of the national information standard, ensuring that “free range” was legally defined as industrial-scale free range, with the tacit support of Australia’s two dominant retailers, who had already set standards for “free range” eggs, which underpinned the industry’s proposed definition. The new national standard may still be tested in court as it does not meet findings in previous decisions by Federal Court judges, and may also breach planning laws which treat intensive animal husbandry as feedlots. Consumer Ministers have egg on their faces over their 'free range' decision. Ministers for Consumer Affairs got it wrong when they allowed an intensive stocking density for free range egg production. The Model Code of Practice recommended a maximum outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare but the Ministers approved a density of 10,000 hens without taking account of planning laws which treat intensive farming operations as feed lots with restrictive planning regulations. They also ignored rulings by Federal Court justices in cases of deceptive conduct over egg labelling. The issue could be taken to court for a ruling.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

$1 million penalty for false egg labelling

A West Australian egg producer has to pay more than a million dollars after the Federal court revealed the penalty for selling eggs which were falsely labelled as free range Snowdale Holdings was found guilty more than a year ago but the penalty of $750,000 plus $300,000 costs has just been announced. The action was brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which said that the company sold 71% of its eggs as free range even though half the chickens on various properties probably never left their sheds This penalty is big enough to worry many dodgy producers who risk prosecution despite political attempts to protect them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New welfare standards for poultry

Public consultation on new welfare standards to replace the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, Domestic Poultry is expected to begin within two months. Animal Health Australia has been preparing the new standards for over a year, in consultation with a variety of major interest groups. Details are at this is part of the submission we will make to AHA: Chickens need to be allowed to follow their normal behaviour rather than be confined. Modern domestic chickens have the same characteristics and habits as the Red Jungle Fowl from which they descended. The Red Jungle Fowl range in small groups on the forest floor. They forage on the ground for seeds, fruit and insects, using their feet to scratch away leaf litter when searching for food. From animal behaviour website On modern intensive cage egg laying properties,.chickens are kept in groups of 3–10 birds in cages with space allowances of 350-600 sq cm per bird(Mench and Keeling, 2001). Stocking densities vary around the world, 350 sq cm on average in the United States, to as high as 700-800 sq cm in Norway and Switzerland (Savage, 2000). Meat chicken sheds. These hold from 10,000–70,000 meat birds, housed on litter in either semi-enclosed or environmentally closed houses. Stocking densities vary from 30–50 kg live weight per square metre (Mench and Keeling, 2001). The social organisation differs in these systems but pecking orders emerge.In cages, there is a definite hierarchy established by pecking and threatening when the hens are placed in the cage, usually a few weeks before laying commences The social order in broiler flocks is relatively unimportant as they are generally processed at an age when the establishment of social stratification is just beginning (Siegel, 1984). Laying hens have complex interrelationships involving social rank, aggression, feeding behaviour and egg production (Mench and Keeling, 2001). In large groups kept together for some months, subgroups form and become restricted to an area. This means that birds can recognise their own group members and those of an overlapping territory. It was suggested that this territorial behaviour is important in large flocks as it reduces the numbers of conflicts when strangers meet (McBride and Foenander, 1962). It has also been shown that individuals are more dominant in the area where they spend most time. Thus in larger flocks, hens tend to live in neighbourhoods where they are well-acquainted (Craig and Guhl, 1969). Laying hens choose to feed close to each other when given a choice of feeding locations, which demonstrates the importance of social attraction (Meunier- Salaun and Faure, 1984). Hens that are in the same cage and in neighbouring cages synchronise their feeding. Chickens show socially facilitated feeding, in particular, they peck more at feed when they have company than when alone (Keeling and Hurink, 1996). Caged birds may exhibit some abnormal behaviour such as head flicks and feather pecking, i.e., pecking and pulling the feathers of other birds (Mench and Keeling, 2001). Feather-pecking may be a form of redirected ground pecking (Blokhuis, 1989). Experience in early life with ground pecking may influence pecking behaviour in later life (Blokhuis, 1991). The motivation for the redirection of ground-pecking happens when the incentive value of the ground is low, compared with the incentive value of pecking substrates (Bindara, 1969). In high-density situations, the birds and feathers make up a higher proportion of stimuli relative to the litter area. It is possible that the birds may perceive the feathers as dust and that may cause a redirection of ground pecking to feather-pecking (Hansen and Braastad,1994).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Egg industry workshops around Australia

The Australian Egg Corporation (Australian Eggs) is holding workshops for the egg industry around the country. Subjects being covered include:   Hen behaviour and beak treatment Egg Standards in Australia Salmonella intervention strategies and egg washing Water quality and biosecurity   Workshops will be held in Penrith NSW on August 1, Yass on September 5 and Taree on September 7, Geelong in Victoria on July 27 and Attwood on August 29 South Perth WA on September 19 Roseworthy SA on November 2.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Stupidmarkets' egg price war

The major Australian supermarkets, Coles, Woolworths and Aldi are taking advantage of consumers, thanks to Ministers for Consumer Affairs allowing intensively produced eggs to be labelled as 'free range'. After caving-in to corporate lobbyists, the Ministers allowed eggs produced on intensive, industrial-scale facilities to be sold as free range. In the supermarkets, customers may as well buy the cheapest eggs available, because they are all basically the same.There is no point in looking on supermarket shelves if anyone wishes to buy genuine free range eggs- the labels are meaningless. Buy them direct from a farm that you know. The big retailers make a killing whatever you buy.They are great place to buy household items like toilet paper, toothpaste, washing powder and soap - but it's a mystery why anyone buys fresh food there. Food is usually better value at butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers etc.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Nutrient loading on free range farms

The stocking density of farm animals is a critical factor in the long term sustainability of farmland. With chickens, the maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare was established by the industry, academics, politicians and bureaucrats when they prepared the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). Nutrients and trace elements in manure accumulate in the soil, making it toxic for vegetation and polluting ground and surface water.
A laying hen produces half a cubic metre of manure a year. So with a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare approved by Ministers for Consumer Affairs earlier this year, farmers who follow their advice will see their land covered with 5000 cubic metres of manure per hectare every year. Chicken manure has the highest amount of nitrogen,phosphorus, and potassium of all manures, so will likely render the land useless for farming within a few years. Contamination of groundwater and water courses is also likely.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Egg stamping 'a waste of time' - Productivity Commission

If politicians take any notice of the Productivity Commission, they may scrap the requirement for stamping eggs. Some of the absurdities of the regulation are that not all eggs are stamped, some are stamped on-farm and some are stamped at a grading floor where there may be little or no traceability back to the farm. But in any event the Productivity Commission in its draft review of the regulations said that the cost of egg stamping represents about 65% of the food safety regulations “and does not appear to deliver superior traceability than labelling on egg cartons or requiring businesses to keep records.” The additional cost per dozen eggs is estimated to be 11.34 cents. The Commission found no evidence that egg stamping provides higher net benefits to the community than the alternatives.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Academic study into using antibiotic growth promotants in poultry and egg production

A new academic study has been started to demonstrate something that all free range egg farmers know – that cage egg production is more efficient than free range. Keeping animals And birds in climate controlled sheds and feeding highly processed food is vastly more p[rofitable than letting livestock behave naturally – which is why there are so many feed lots and high density factory farms. Researchers at The University of Sydney, say that free-range broilers and layer hens are less efficient converters of feed into saleable meat and eggs, and generally have higher mortality than poultry reared in sheds. A new Poultry CRC project led by Dr Aaron Cowieson (Director of the University of Sydney’s Poultry Research Foundation) aims to establish the principle reasons for the observed performance gap between free-range and intensively reared hens. The project will evaluate various feed alternatives to reduce the differences in performance. It will also look at the lack of antibiotics in feed given to free range birds and their access to range. This seems to suggest that antibiotic growth promotants are widely used by cage and barn laid egg producers - something the industry has frequently denied.