There are many products from animals that are described as ‘Free Range’: pork, beef and – a hot topic – eggs.
Coles require one bird per square metre from their free range egg producers. This is l0,000 chooks per hectare. At present, there are no rigid guidelines from some all-powerful body to follow to help producers adhere to a generally accepted and legislated ‘free range’ standard.
The Australian Egg Corporation Ltd. (AECL), a producer owned company, is trying to create a new national Quality Assurance program. They are recommending 20,000 hens per hectare, which AECL calls “the reality” behind the program.
AECL spokesman said “Consumers want free range eggs to be laid by hens that are never in cages, are able to freely range outdoors , have access to fresh food, clean water, shelter and protection from predators”. Absolutely. Especially the bit about Never In Cages.
AECL says they are about: “Producing the highest quality, safest product; our environment; providing choice; the welfare of our hens; and feeding our growing population.” Quite understand.
In farming, there will always be a toss up between the perfect world and what is commercially viable.
Commercially viable doesn’t mean unethical. It means adopting sensible business values which keep a farming enterprise running in profit. If you want to find out what policies the company that produces your eggs adopts – just ask them.
Best of all, of course, especially in the Northern Valleys, is keeping your own chooks. The freshest eggs, wonderful sense of cherishing a creature/s, thrills for the kids on collecting the eggs and observing chooks – and learning what to be responsible for something means. Not to mention chook poo for the organic vegies you are growing.
Perhaps more of us in the Northern Valleys should own some free range chooks?