24th July, 2010
I don’t know about you but I get a little confused when confronted at the egg shelf in a supermarket with caged, cage free, barn laid, free range, premium gourmet, natural living, grain fed, natural grain, whole grain fed, organic eggs... it goes on!
I did smile when I found a carton labeled ‘simply eggs’; they had done away with all the buzzwords - good marketing ploy – but they were caged! Another carton said ‘certified free range’ yet I couldn’t find who certified it and the cute chicken certification logo was not the accredited logo used by the Free Range Farmers Association Inc. Another one nearly got me in when I noticed (in big words) ‘organic’ but on closer scrutiny found that the birds were caged and fed organic grain. It was comforting to find the Australian Organic logo on another carton. I think I will buy this one. Better still, I can find Bio-Dynamic eggs from Bio-Eggs at the Farmgate markets. These bright yellow yoke eggs come from chickens that forage free in grass paddocks at Gordonvale.
Jamie Oliver gave a great television presentation about Britain’s egg industry to awaken the conscious of consumers to the welfare of the birds. Here in Australia consumers are catching on and want to make informed buying decisions, so eggs from free range chickens are gaining popularity.
With current standard for ‘free range’ poultry farming at 1500 birds per hectare, you would think that any shift in these ratios would be to decrease the bird numbers. However the Australian Egg Corporation has launched plans for new standards for free range egg production which allows stocking densities on farms to increase to 20,000 per hectare and permit hens to be kept locked in sheds for up to 25 weeks.
This change in standard could allow large producers to charge a premium for branding their eggs as 'free range' without incurring the additional costs of genuine free range production methods. Is it about marketing or about ethics?
A petition by the Australian Free Range Farmers Association has been set up for consumers to say no to the changes. If you are concerned go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/freerange/