We are lucky to live in a market today where free-range eggs are the majority rather than the minority. Consumers have said they don’t like the idea of chickens being kept in cages to supply eggs and producers have responded.
But, do you know what really constitutes a ‘free-range’ egg?
- In Australia there is no legal definition for the term free-range. There is a voluntary standard that producers can abide by which is to keep 1,500 birds per hectare. This number means there is enough space for chickens to ‘free-roam’ outdoors. The problem is this number is not enforceable and many egg producers hold 10,000 birds or more per hectare and this is still deemed free-range.
- Many producers house high numbers of chickens in barns or sheds with access to the outdoors through openings of a minimum standard 35cm high and 40cm wide. The problem is the minimum requirement of openings is 5 openings per 1000 birds. If you imagine a shed with 10,000 birds and 50 small openings, many of the birds may never get outside as they find it difficult to compete with so many getting in and out. This is still deemed to be free-range.
- Just because eggs are labelled free-range doesn’t mean they have been reared humanely. For example, if you bought a Coles brand free-range egg you would find that the chook has been de-beaked, had it’s wings clipped, it’s toes trimmed, and possibly de-voiced (vocal chords surgically removed) and dubbed (comb removed from the head of the bird). On top of that it may never see the light of day due to the high density of birds it is living amongst.
To make sure you are getting an egg produced by a happy chook in true free-range conditions look for a label stating that they are eggs from a Maximum 1500 Hens Per Hectare farm or better yet are labelled with the Humane Choice logo.
Learn more about the requirements for free-range eggs here.
Consume With Care
Make It Possible
What about you, did you know there was no legal definition for free-range?