The Big Eggers vs the Free Rangers In March 2017 labelling of free-range eggs will be considered by the Federal Government due to a call to have a national standard where everyone is agreed as to exactly what Free Range means and what an egg farm needs to do to gain the certification that enables it to say its eggs are "free range". Consumers have been calling for a standard and for clarity for some time now. Generally consumers think that free range egss come from chickens who go outside and frolic happily in lush green paddocks under big blue skies.
There is legislation that governs misleading and deceptive conduct in product labelling, under the Australian Consumer Law. The law prohibits a person from making, in trade or commerce in connection with the supply of goods, a false or misleading representation that goods are of a particular standard or quality. Many consumers support imposing a limit of 1,500 chickens per hectare for eggs to qualify as "free range however the the egg industry say such numbers will make large-scale egg production non-viable and that prices will soar if the definition of free range is capped at 1,500. Consumers are looking for "natural" and healthy products. There has long been a backlash against factory chicken farming that sees thousands on thousands of chickens in restrictive cages popping out eggs. The ACCC recognises that consumers are prepared to pay more for products that agree with their personal values and the consumer shift to organics, Non GMO, sustainable choices is growing. The labeling of an egg carton with "Cage eggs" doesn't appeal as much as "Free Range" with images on boxes usually depicting an idyllic farming scene. 1500 hens per hectare gives each chook 6.6 sq metres. 10000 hens per hectare give each chook just 1square metre. An average cage is a 0.3sq metres. Consumer group Choice refers to free range egg farms with 10,000 hens per hectare chicken 'mosh pits'. But the egg industry is standing by 10,000 chickens per hectare as "free range" that will enable their members to use the expression on labels and push that with this will provide certainty for farms to invest for the future. Submissions have closed so all you can do now is wait and see how the vote goes. No doubt there will be some serious lobbying. Meanwhile the term free range is also applied to the chicken we eat. In 1975, it took 64 days to grow chickens to market weight; today a chicken can be ready to eat in 35. It is not uncommon for your meat chicken to share quarters with 15 other chickens in less than a square metre of space. These chooks do not venture out side and frolic in the "free range". Chickens from accredited farms have access to the outdoors during the day before being gently ushered into barns at nigh. The accredited grass-fed cattle are raised on pasture and grass fed for their entire lives and the pigs are born outdoors and stay with their mothers until weaned with access to a range area. While local farmers markets are bringing a change to how consumers select their produce the larger supermarkets are also making considered changes to their lines and providing options that are meeting the values of consumers demanding an open transparency in the "morality" behind the food source. If you want to keep your own chooks the norm in NSW is 10 chickens maximum in residential areas. No roosters are allowed in residential areas, coop floor area are not meant to be more than 15m2, maximum height 3m and the chook shed must be located in a rear yard with one shed per property and there must be a floor of concrete floor underneath roosts or perches. Additionally poultry must not be able to escape from yard and the backyard must be kept clean and free from odours. There are some great books and online websites for chook raising for meat and eggs.