Free range Chooks. It’s a Con.

Dodgy Chook Numbers ( How to get hoodwinked by “Free range Market”)

Things are hardly ever what they appear to be, especially not in the world of shopping, and in particular, in the world of egg buying. A few nights ago we were jolted into the reality of animal cruelty when a program on chooks and their environs was presented on the TV.

It proved to be an amazing world of deceit, cunning, and hoodwinking of you, the customer. If you thought that buying ‘free range’ eggs made you into a person caring for the welfare of the Rhode-Island Reds, think again. Unlike in the EU where the term ‘free range’ means a minimum of 4sq metres of open space per chicken and a mandatory supply of greenery. Here ‘free range’ can be even more cruel and horrific than caged birds.

The European Union regulates marketing standards for egg farming which specifies the following (cumulative) minimum conditions for the free-range method:

■hens have continuous daytime access to open-air runs, except in the case of temporary restrictions imposed by veterinary authorities, ■the open-air runs to which hens have access is mainly covered with vegetation and not used for other purposes except for orchards, woodland and livestock grazing if the latter is authorized by the competent authorities, ■the open-air runs must at least satisfy the conditions specified in Article 4(1)(3)(b)(ii) of Directive 1999/74/EC whereby the maximum stocking density is not greater than 2500 hens per hectare of ground available to the hens or one hen per 4m2 at all times and the runs are not extending beyond a radius of 150 m from the nearest pophole of the building; an extension of up to 350 m from the nearest pophole of the building is permissible provided that a sufficient number of shelters and drinking troughs within the meaning of that provision are evenly distributed throughout the whole open-air run with at least four shelters per hectare.[

Free range. It is different in Australia where there seems to be an open slather on deceiving customers into thinking that free range eggs, which are often 2 to 3 times the price of caged eggs, are somehow produced by happy chickens, freely cavorting and picking their food from open grassy fields. Those EU standards are certainly not applied here. The latest regulation now allows a staggering 20 000 chickens per Ha (10 000 sq Metres). That is one chicken per half a sq M. This in effect raises their stress levels to such an extent it results in cannibalism. No worries, the chooks are then de-beaked which was shown to be done by the young pullets putting their beaks into a feeding tube. Instead of getting feed, they get instantly de-beaked. Footage was shown of the young pullets with bleeding beaks.

If you thought the Australian Egg board would be keen to improve conditions for the poor chooks or at least comply with EU standards, think again. A quick scan through the list of directors reads like the who’s who of some of the largest ‘free range’ operators, egg marketers and producers.

Hardly a bunch of unbiased, independent operators keen on improving the lot for chickens. Their main aim is to improve profits not kindness to chooks.

In Sweden, where else, caged eggs have been banned. In many other European countries, main supermarkets, including Aldi, do not stock caged eggs anymore. Al least the ‘free range’ eggs have the legislative back up of a maximum of 2500 chooks per Ha. How come, after so much publicity of late about the plight of chooks, this hasn’t been implemented here? It makes one wonder if the caged eggs are not a better and more ethical deal here after all.

I hope Tony Abbott is not behind all this. He is such a ‘free marketeer’, anything is possible. It’s all such a rort, isn’t it?

Please sign the petition.

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11 Responses to “Free range Chooks. It’s a Con.”

  1. Nick Ryan Says:

    Gerard, Tasmania have already been the first Australian State to commit to banning battery cages,
    Please sign the online petition. Regards, Nick


  2. gerard oosterman Says:

    Gee, that was quick. Thanks Nick and I have signed the petition.


  3. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Gerard, I wish that you had a facebook button on your blog! This is exactly the sort of post that I’d like to share. I have tweeted it though!
    I dread to think what the standard of welfare is like for Indonesian chickens. I buy ‘free range’ eggs here but I’m not convinced that they are – (you can tell a lot from the colour of the yolks) and if conditions for ‘free range’ chooks are like that in Australia, I’m prepared to bet that they are no better here – I really hope that I am wrong and please correct me if anyone knows any differently.


  4. gerard oosterman Says:

    Hello Lottie,
    I wish too I had a face book button. How do you get it?
    I am not so sure what the standard for ‘free range’ chickens are in Indonesia. In Bali they run around everywhere, even in Jogyakarta they were everywhere. But… no doubt the commercial aspect of profit from eggs might override animal concerns in Indonesia too.
    Thank you for your interest.


  5. Adriano Janezic Says:

    it’s sad to learn that free range farming in Australia may be as or even more cruel than the chicken cage horror.We have regulations in EU and l hope they are put in practice well on free range farms since these are the only eggs my conscience allows me to buy.l hope the same goes for eco diary farms at least what l’ve heard from my friend,cows there are treated with greater love and respect with lots of space to feed on and walk.Great to hear that Tasmania has banned the cages and l sincerely hope that the rest of Australia follows its example and improves the free range farming regulations.What goes on at meat,egg and diary factory farms is beyond the most horrific nightmare,a fully accepted abbatoir of the hell on Earth to satisfy the human taste and anthropocentric mentality.Free range farming must offer an alternative and it’s absolutely unacceptable to be abused as a con to deceive consumers’ pockets and minds and inflict more animal pain and suffering.All the best from Slovenia.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Adriano from Slovenia for your hearfelt concern. If enough people do what you did and raise awareness, things will change for the better. Many good people in Australia do draw attention to animal cruelty and things are changing. It is a slow process but it does happen.


  6. auntyuta Says:

    The picture gives me the creeps. Makes me wonder whether it might indeed be more ‘ethical’ to buy eggs from ‘caged’ chooks. How is it possible consumers can be deceived this much about ‘free range eggs’?


  7. The sad face of a prawn. | Oosterman Treats Blog Says:

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  8. Yvonne Says:

    There are fewer and fewer foods I feel comfortable eating. Even our fresh fruits and vegetables are suspect, and don’t really taste like the real thing. Maybe when I move to Victoria later in the year, I’ll consider my own vegetable garden and some happy chickens.


  9. The Australian Con of ‘Free range.’ | Oosterman Treats Blog Says:

    […] Free range Chooks. It’s a Con. […]


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