I simply couldn’t imagine a life without eggs. Scrambled, boiled, poached, fried…you name it, I love it. After a recent conversation with a friend about free-range eggs, I decided to do some research.
Did you know the word free-range is a loose term as official standards for free-range farming don’t exist.
Yes, there are industry bodies and associations which all cite their own codes of practice but joining is voluntary. So even though your packaging may claim free-range, the fate of the chickens are entirely up to the farmer or egg producer. The hefty free-range price tag we pay may be a waste of our hard earned cash.
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FALSE LABELLING OF EGGS
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission false labelling of free-range eggs are quite common. In the article Pirovic, a large egg producer was fined $300,000 for false labelling. Their so called “free-range” eggs were housed in crowded barns, some never seeing daylight. It’s also common practice to snip off beaks to discourage fighting and to use lighting to trick hens into laying more eggs than normal. Several other producers have been fined by the federal court and the ACCC.
ORGANIC VS FREE-RANGE EGGS
So you may be wondering if there’s any difference between organic and free-range eggs? Definitely! Organic certification ensures that chickens are free from antibiotics, hormones and additives and fed a natural chemical free organic diet. Chickens are allowed a lot more outside time and space to roam. And beak trimming is also prohibited.
Not all free-range chickens receive the same treatment…fresh air and sunshine, if they’re lucky but that’s about it.
Naturally I’ve always purchased organic eggs from my farmers market. But imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find a website for my free-range organic egg producer. Mmm…in this day and age, a lack of transparency raises huge red flags!
NATIONAL STANDARDISATION OF FREE-RANGE INDUSTRY
In October 2015, the Federal Government took small steps towards producing a national standard for free range egg production. Naturally this was opposed by a few large Australian egg producers, one even claiming that consumers didn’t really care whether chickens were caged or not. And surprisingly the president of the American Egg Farmers Association, Ken Klippen warned Australian farmers against supporting free-range laws.
He claimed caged chickens are healthier and happier.
WHERE TO BUY YOUR FREE-RANGE OR ORGANIC EGGS
- Look for labelling and logo’s displaying these egg associations: Free Range Farmers Association and Free Range Egg and Poultry Association.
- A 2011 directory of national small independent farms
- Organic suppliers of chicken and eggs
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT THE INDUSTRY
- Write to your local MP or to government to demand a national standard for free-range certification for chicken farming
- Do you research and investigate brands before you buy
- Support farmers practising true free-range farming
- Or raise your own chickens
Remember, as a consumer, you have a voice and you hold the cash! So make yourself heard. And if you have any more recommendations on where to buy organic free-range eggs, please let me know in the comments.
– This interview originally ran in The Gold Coast Post here:
All photos sourced from goldcoastpost.com.au.