Saturday, March 17, 2018
CSIRO’s social and economic systems division is developing a community engagement project proposal for a sustainable agriculture Initiative and Australian Eggs says it will consider public release of its farm Sustainability Framework in April. Australian Eggs' idea of sustainability is likely to be underwhelming, so we propose to try to push the agenda with something like this:Farmland, the environment, consumers and poultry are being put at risk by new free range egg production standards allowing chickens to be run at stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare. Each adult hen produces half a cubic metre of manure a year, so at that density, each hectare of land will be covered by 5000 cubic metres of poultry manure every year - - an unsustainable nutrient load which politicians are encouraging. When the most recent version of the Code was approved by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council and printed in 2002, it was a development of an earlier version. There has been no science or research behind high density free range proposals (other than the certainty of increased profits. No scientific review of production processes has been undertaken to demonstrate that the standards contained within the current voluntary Model Code are no longer applicable to the industry. The stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare for free range hens was developed by applying well established principles of agronomy. The issue of the upper limit on the long term stocking rate was debated strongly at the time, following pressure from local Councils and the EPA about how some farms were operating. Experience was taken into account of people who had farmed free range layers in the 1950’s and 60's, when all egg production was based on free range principles. Hens were often run under citrus trees It was recognised that for an operation to be sustainable, the stocking rate had to be low - less than 300 birds/acre (750/hectare). It was agreed that such a system should be regarded as Free Range egg production and the hens were to have access to the range during daylight hours. There was some dispute by new entrants to the industry who believed that they could design pasture rotation systems around their sheds that would allow higher rates. So it was decided to take an empirical approach and work out what the maximum stocking rate could be to avoid the measurable negative impacts of nutrient run off and soil degradation and still be theoretically possible to maintain pasture cover and avoid the issue of dust. Some argued that as most hens were in sheds at night and may be locked in for part of the day so that only a portion of the hens actually entered the range area at any one time, the impact was lessened. The dairy industry was very big at that time and local agronomists had data on the effects of applying very high rates of poultry manure on irrigated pasture. The agronomists studied the data on the maximum nutrient uptake a well maintained irrigated pasture could support and also avoid the problems of salinity build up observed in the dairy pastures. The stocking rate was calculated and a stocking density of up to 600 birds/acre (1500/hectare) was regarded as the maximum possible for long term sustainability. Those currently involved in free range egg production agree that the fundamental elements of the Model Code, or other regulations introduced by Governments should be: a maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare; stocking density must be reduced in conditions where pasture or other vegetative cover cannot be maintained at the maximum stocking density; no beak trimming of hens is permitted except when other methods of controlling outbreaks of severe feather pecking or cannibalism have been tried and failed (using the same criteria in the current Model Code); and pullets must be allowed to range freely once they are fully feathered (about six weeks old). Phil Westwood is an environmental auditor, a former auditor for the National Egg Quality Assurance Program and a former President of the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Consumers, poultry and the environment are being put at risk by new free range egg production standards allowing chickens to be run at stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare. Each adult hen produces half a cubic metre of manure a year, so at that density, each hectare of land will be covered by 5000 cubic metres of poultry manure every year - - an unsustainable nutrient load. It’s not only Australia where intensive production is causing concern. In Wales,even though stocking densities are far less than the Australian standard, the nutrient levels are creating widespread concerns because of the potential impact on rivers and wildlife. Wales Online reports that particular concerns have been expressed for mammals like otters and dormice as well as for fish like eels and brown trout. Wildlife officials say “We have a number of concerns, mainly around the sheer number of these units that have been operating, new ones that have been given consent and applications that are in the pipeline. “Whilst nobody objects to farmers wanting to diversify and increase their profitability, there is a worry that the amount of phosphate that comes from chicken manure is damaging to the river system”. Consumers and farmers need to put pressure on politicians to set more realistic standard s in Australia to ensure land sustainability, animal welfare and food safety.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
New labelling requirements and standards for free range egg production are likely to destroy any remaining consumer confidence in the Australian egg industry. The standard allows intensive production systems to be classified as free range and protects intensive producers from prosecution under Australian Consumer Law. The new standard allows unscrupulous producers to continue to mislead customers. Ministers have regulated that an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare is classified as free range . Phil with Raphael, one of our Maremmas
Thursday, March 08, 2018
It’s slow-going, but we still hope to achieve our crowd funding target to develop webinars encouraging more free range farms to be established. Everyone can help to establish more genuine, small scale free range eggs farms by supporting a programme of webinars demonstrating all the processes involved. The webinars will encourage hundreds more farms to be established all over Australia and other parts of the world. Freeranger Eggs in South Gippsland and the Freeranger Club have run workshops in the past, but the webinars will reach far more potential egg farmers. An eBook on starting a free range farm is also available through the Freeranger website. Once the target is reached, the webinars will be free and all participants will receive a copy of our eBook.The Crowd Funding appeal is at: https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c
Tuesday, March 06, 2018
The new information standard on free range eggs adopted by Ministers for Consumer Affairs comes into effect on April 26 even though it is meaningless and contrary to the interests of the industry, and consumers. The standard allows intensive production systems to be classified as free range and protects intensive producers from prosecution under Australian Consumer Law. The new standard simply allows unscrupulous producers to continue to mislead customers. Ministers have regulated that an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare is classified as free range and from April 26 all egg cartons must carry a stocking density even thought the cartons are already overcrowded with meaningless information which baffles consumers. Loopholes in the standard ensure that almost any excuse can be given for keeping hens locked up. There is no mechanism for checking each operation – so it would have been more effective to leave things as they were and let the ACCC launch prosecutions. Adopting the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry) would have been a more realistic standard. Intensive egg producers will simply divide the amount of land they have by the number of birds to come up with a completely misleading stocking density – but which meets legal requirements. The business may have a million hens in various sheds but because it operates on a large property it will be able meet the absurd standard. In our case we have a modest 80 hectare property – which means that the law allows us to have 800,000 chickens. We currently run about 400 and during periods of peak demand we increase numbers to 1000 or 1200 birds. This gives us a current stocking density of 5 hens per hectare and maximum stocking rate of 15 per hectare. Why should we be forced to put that on our cartons and do we have to keep amending it when a new flock is brought in? This problem would not arise if politicians had done their jobs and produced an effective free range standard. Free range would be the only words needed if a proper standard had been adopted.
Friday, March 02, 2018
On a small free range farm, it can often be difficult to maintain a balance between demand and production. The are so many variables - including the weather and the number of daylight hours, which both have a dramatic impact on production. But it's not just the number of eggs laid. One factor which many people don't appreciate is the size of eggs. Production may be terrific (as it is right now) but we currently have a large number of small 50 - 55 gram eggs ( which are described as large in stupidmarkets). Most of our customers want larger eggs. Some restaurants will only take 70 gram eggs which can make it difficult to maintain supplies to them. Our gate sales are an important part of our business, but many customers have a preference for big eggs. We can only supply what our hens lay - unlike many egg farmers, we don't buy in eggs from other suppliers to meet a shortfall.
Thursday, March 01, 2018
All major egg producers and many small ones - even those which claim to be free range and organic - use colouring additives in the feed they give their hens. Their use is completely unnecessary in a free range flock, as hens running on quality pasture and at low stocking densities will obtain enough carotenoids from the green feed in the paddock to maintain good yolk colour. The colour will vary – depending on the time of year and what each hen has been eating – but many egg producers want to con consumers by using additives to provide consistent, bright yolk colour. Many of those additives are synthetic - adding to the chemical cocktail mix in food. But even those which are claimed to be 'natural' are manufactured in factories – often in China. What the manufacturers mean by using the word 'natural' is that the additives may be derived from natural products but are processed and concentrated into a powder or liquid. Three of the most widely used egg yolk pigmenters are: Canthaxanin or Canthaxanthin which appears to be an unsafe additive. It can cause diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, dry and itchy skin, hives, orange or red body secretions, and other side effects. Do not use canthaxanthin if you experience breathing problems; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat; a skin rash or hives; you are pregnant or breast-feeding or you are allergic to vitamin A or carotenoids. Allergic reactions to capsicum may occur. Stop eating eggs with capsicum-based colouring and seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives. Other less serious side effects have also been reported. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider if you experience upset stomach; heartburn; diarrhoea; migraine attacks or burning sensation in the mouth or throat. Use of Capsicum is not recommended if you are pregnant. If you are or will be breast-feeding while eating food containing Capsicum, check with your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the risks to your baby. Capsicum colourings can bring on anaphylactic shock. See details about which plants generate these problems on this site at the University of Maryland: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/anaphylaxis-000008.htm Marigold Some people experience breathing problems, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat. A skin rash or hives may occur.