Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Politicians get another kick for allowing an intensive 'free range' standard for chickens

An Australian study has revealed the absurdity of intensive free range standards approved by politicians.The standards allow eggs to be labelled as free range even when they are are produced on properties with an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare. It showed that free-range chickens spend more time outside when there are fewer hens per hectare and greater outside space available, according to research by the University of New England and CSIRO in conjunction with the Poultry Cooperative Research Centre. Dr Dana Campbell from the School of Environmental and Rural Science says greater consumer interest in animal welfare is driving change in the laying hen industry in Australia with an increase in free-range farms. Six small flocks of 150 ISA brown hens were tracked by researchers using radio-frequency identification tracking technology that identified individual hens by their microchipped leg bands. Each flock had access to one of three different outdoor stocking densityareas, the first was 2000 hens per hectare, the second 10 000 hens/ha and the third 20 000 hens/ha. “What we found is that hens with the lowest outdoor stocking density of 2000 hens per hectare spent more time outdoors, while  hens housed at the highest stocking density of 20 000 hens/ha spent the least time outside,” Dr Campbell said. The study found that on average about half the hens were outside simultaneously, using all available areas of the range. This study was probably the first which dealt with genuine free range poultry. Most other researchers confine their work to large industrial-scale flocks, because they generally fund the research.

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