WHEN shoppers buy a carton of free-range eggs, they are buying an ideal about the life of the chicken providing their supper.
They expect the chickens to be able to scratch around in the dirt, grass and sunshine and to live a relatively stress-free life. More than 65% of Australians opted to buy free-range eggs in the past 12 months, according to independent consumer advocate Choice. For small-scale farmers like the six operations in the Casino and Kyogle area, the changes haven't made any difference to the way they farm eggs.
The farmers asked not to be named, fearing reprisals from the egg industry and the "big guys".
A local farmer with 6000 chickens said the standard for decades was 1500 birds for each hectare to qualify as free-range.
"The standard is for the welfare of the animals, not the consumer," the farmer said.
"The happier the animal, the better they produce."
The Federal Government's new labelling regulations have increased the definition of free-range to be 10,000 per hectare. Our farmer said a large-scale farm might have 40,000 chickens in one shed and open both side doors to let them out.
On his farm, he has 14 sheds and doesn't have more than 500 chickens in each one.
"Otherwise there are problems," he said.
For more information visit www.legislation.gov. au/Details/F2017L00474.
GOVT'S NEW LABELLING RULES
Eggs labelled free-range to have been laid by hens that have had meaningful and regular access to the outdoors.
Outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens or less per hectare.
Stocking density displayed prominently on packaging.
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