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.
BARN / CAGE FREE
Cage Free hens (Barn)
Free Range Hens @ 10,000 Ha
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 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."
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: