Monday, July 9, 2012

Free Range Eggs

It shouldn't be a hard question - what is a free range egg? Most people would imagine chickens running around grassed paddocks, scratching up worms and .... well being chickens and that is what they pay for when they buy eggs labelled as free range. But things are not that simple.

Phil Westwood from Freeranger Eggs in Grantville, Victoria helps us understand what are the current definitions as well as discussing the proposed changes.

For more information check out the Free Range Farmers Association. Choice also has a great article that is worth a read. And you can keep right up to date by checking out the ACCC.

So, what can consumers do?
1) Look for credible accreditation - the term "free range" is not representative of consumers expectations, if you are thinking you chooks live like those in the picture. Check if your eggs are supplied from an accredited free range farm, or Humane Choice approved or a similar branding. At the moment most farms selling pastured eggs (as opposed to 'free range'), are accurately branded but there is no certification process.
2) Visit your farmer - ring up and ask to come and meet the chooks. All farms have some biological hazard procedures (such as washing boots, or not getting in the paddocks with the animals) but if your farmer continually says no to a visit, then maybe you need to think about what they are trying to hide.
3) Contact your members of parliament. The time for comment in this round has closed but it shouldn't be taken off the agenda - and whether this is an animal welfare issue for you, or just truth in labeling - we need legislative clarification.
4) Let your wallet do the walking. While the pollies and the egg industry are sorting out the bits and pieces be aware that your consumer buying power is speaking for you - spend your money on a brand of eggs that represents your stand on the issue, whatever that stand is.

Image from Freeranger Eggs

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