Saturday, July 14, 2018
Dodgy 'Free Range' producers confirmed by new environmental guidelines
Deception by major Australian egg producers over ‘free range’ claims has been confirmed by Australian Eggs, the industry’s peak marketing and research body. Newly released environmental guidelines for egg farmers state that “the majority of manure is deposited in sheds.” This is a clear acknowledgement that most hens on these so-called free range farms are kept in sheds despite legal requirements that they must have ‘meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during the daylight hours of the laying cycle and are able to roam and forage on the outdoor range.’ If those conditions are met, politicians allow poultry farms with stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare to describe their eggs as free range, but the disclosure in the guidelines just released shows that most producers do not comply with the requirements.The revelation confirms the view of genuine free range farmers that the only way the 10,00 hens per hectare density can work is if the hens are locked in sheds and the manure is collected and transported off farm. Otherwise, the high density presents major environmental, food safety and animal health issues with the sheer volume of manure per hectare posing problems of land degredation and pollution.Many planning authorities are unlikely to accept such a high density and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has said that “Local and State planning laws also apply to free range hen farms.” It is expected that the Australian competition and Consumer Commission will investigate the industry practice revealed by Australian Eggs and may launch more successful prosecutions in the Federal Court.