Different stocking rates for free-range egg farms could short change consumers.
Different stocking rates for free-range egg farms could short change consumers.

Too many hens not free-range

CONSUMERS paying extra for free-range eggs can’t be sure what they will be getting under proposals to soften the rules defining free-range hens.

The Egg Corporation is considering increasing the number of free-range hens per hectare from 1500 to 20,000.

Karangi free-range egg producer Rudy Sendlhofer runs fewer than 600 hens per hectare on his farm.

“To qualify as free-range you need to have 70 per cent ground cover,” Mr Sendlhofer said.

“But if you so dramatically increase the numbers, you’re not going to have that so you can’t really call it a free-range egg.”

A Bill being drafted by Greens MP John Kaye will also limit the labelling of eggs to ‘free-range’ and ‘cage’, but Mr Sendlhofer believes there needs to be four categories.

“Consumers deserve to know if eggs are barn laid, organic free-range, standard or cage,” he said.

A survey conducted by Egg-Corporation has revealed two-thirds of consumers believe beak-trimming is okay, as long as it reduces pecking and cannibalism.

But Mr Sendlhofer said that the problem of hens pecking at each other is increased with a higher density of birds.

He said while beak trimming does stop hens causing damage and even pecking each other to death, it is not positive.

“It permanently removes their beaks and means they will need a deeper feeding trough because they struggle to pick up seeds and other foods.”



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