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Making Sense of Egg Labels

Consumers are happy to pay a premium for free range eggs in the belief that they meet certain standards; that they are free to range outdoors. It is a known fact that consumers are paying almost twice as much for free range eggs as they would for cage eggs, but are they getting what they paid for? How much faith can they have in egg labels?

Egg labels have become very confusing especially now that the once understood meaning of free range has been reinvented so that it can be applied to an intensive version of this label.  We have attempted to simplify the most common definitions used on egg carton labels for you. Caged, Barn, Cage Free, Free Range and Pastured.





  • No access to the outdoors
  • Birds kept in tiny cages
  • No room for exercise or wing flapping
  • No ability to fulfill natural behavioural instincts like dust bathing
  • No limit to the number of hens kept in a shed
  • Hens live a stressed and short life
  • No access to the outdoors
  • No limit to number of hens in a shed
  • Avery systems allowed
  • Artificial lighting required
  • Stress can be very high for the birds
  • Only requires access* outdoors 
  • No requirement for grazing or access to pasture
  • Hens do not have to go outside
  • 10,000 hens per Ha permitted
  • Stocking rates to go on label
  • No limit to number of hens in a shed
  • Avery systems allowed
  • Must have access to and use the outdoors
  • More than 'pop holes' required
  • Must have grazing available
  • Hens must go outside
  • Limit of 1,500 hens per Ha
  • Small flock sizes
  • Limited number of hens per house

Caged Hens

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Cage Free hens (Barn)

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Free Range Hens @ 10,000 Ha

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Pastured Hens

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* Free Range Eggs

What does 'meaningful access to an outdoor range' mean?

According to the new information standard, meaningful access to the range does not mean that the birds have to actually go outside.  It is only necessary to give the hens access points so that they could go out.  When very large sheds (as pictured above) are only required to provide 2 metres of space for every 1,000 birds to exit the shed, and it only needs to be 35cm high, it is no wonder not many of the hens make it outside, even if they wanted to.

There are many reasons that a hen will choose not to go outside and they all relate to management of the birds and their environment.  Chickens that are raised indoors are not trained to use popholes and fear what is outside.  The environment offered in the range is often bare and uninviting so the hens prefer the safety of what is known to them - an enclosed shed that is also the only place for them to find food and water.  Birds destined to live their lives as free range hens should be trained to use perches, be used to sunshine and generally prepared for the environment they will be introduced to.  At present, it only seems that the hen's fear of the unknown and limited access requirements to the outdoors are being exploited.

The Free Range Egg Information Standards states that:

"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."

Pastured Egg Standards

Here you will find the PROOF Core Values and Pastured Egg and Poultry Standards

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Ask for PROOF when you buy Free Range Eggs

Ask for PROOF when you buy free range eggs to ensure that they have been raised on pasture and in a farming environment that meets your expectations.

Look for the PROOF Licensee Logo!  Our farmers follow our Core Vales:

  •  All animals are able to range in open fields or paddocks**
  • All animals are kept at stocking densities that will ensure access to forage and grazing; in the case of layer hens, shall not exceed 1,500 per hectare
  • Densely confined production systems and feed lotting are not permitted
  • All animals are able to interact with their herd or flock and to carry out natural behaviours
  • Animals will not be kept in cages, stalls or crates
  • All animals will be protected from predation
  • Animals will be fed to meet their welfare needs as well as production requirements
  • Surgical treatments that inflict unnecessary pain are not permitted
  •  All animals will be inspected by the producer on a daily basis
  • Pastured production should be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable

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© Free Range Pig Farmers
This website  is owned and operated by Pasture Raised On Open Fields - PROOF


The opinions, advice and information contained in this website have not been provided at the request of any person but are offered by  PROOF and Australian Pig Farmers solely for informational purposes. While the information provided has been formulated in good faith, it should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Australian Pig Farmers, PROOF or do not accept liability in respect of any action taken by any person in reliance on the content of this publication.

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