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What does Free Range Mean?
In Australia, the definition of a free range egg has now been established and the outcome has been disappointing for both producers and consumers. The long battle over who gets to put the words free range on their egg carton, and the new 'information standard' that does not require the hens to actually go outside, has damaged the integrity of the term to the extent that genuine free range farmers have distanced themselves and now call their eggs Pastured. Pastured better defines the production system that free range was originally based on and meets consumer expectations for ethically raised hens.
Eggs from hens that have no legal requirement to even go outside, and that are stocked at 10,000 birds per hectare, are permitted to be labelled as free range under the new free range egg standard.
There is no requirement for access to pasture under the new standard. Hens that do go outside in these intensive free range systems are usually presented with a dusty and barren yard.
The hens pictured to the right live under conditions that are not much different to barn raised or cage free.
Would you call this Free Range?
With no legal requirement for these birds to go outside, it is easy to see why so few ever make their way out through the popholes.
The new law states:
Meaningful and regular access: The definition is access based so that producers are not required to ensure that hens go outside during daylight hours every day across the laying cycle but are required to provide conditions which encourage access to and use of the range.
This is more like it!
This is a PROOF certified pastured egg farm.
If this is what you think free range should look like, it might be time to starting buying pastured eggs instead.
If you want to be sure it is Free Range, ask for PROOF!
All livestock are raised outdoors with continuous and unrestricted daytime access to paddocks that are suitable for grazing and are provided with shade and shelter. All animals must use the paddocks each day unless; they choose to shelter because of inclement weather, short term confinement for veterinary treatment or when giving birth. Feed supplements are available to ensure all their nutritional needs are met. Animals are kept at a stocking intensity that will ensure forage is always available in an actively managed rotational grazing system.