News Advisor Ethical eggs – why these are the brands to buy
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Ethical eggs – why these are the brands to buy

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Consumers could soon have clarity on what exactly is a free range chicken egg.

On Tuesday, consumer advocacy group CHOICE alleged that many free range eggs are less ethical than we might hope.

The industry ideal is no more than 1500 hens per hectare, which would afford each chook an average of six square metres.

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Only 25 per cent of free range egg products investigated by CHOICE could be confirmed as meeting this ideal. Of 55 companies, 21 failed to meet it and a further 20 could not be confirmed, the consumer group reported.

What most media coverage failed to note was that the current industry standard allows for an unlimited number of hens to be grouped per square metre if certain conditions are met.

Getty
The concept of free range is being ‘misconstrued’. Photo: Getty

“Any higher bird density is acceptable only where regular rotation of birds onto fresh range areas occurs and close management is undertaken which provides some continuing fodder cover,” the industry standard said.

An industry insider told The New Daily such ‘misconstructions’ were the result of widespread confusion over how the term is and should be defined.

“No one really has any idea what this is about,” NSW Farmers Egg Committee chairman Bede Burke said.

The industry denied any breaches of what amounts to a generous standard.

“We know that 99-plus per cent of people who are members of our state bodies are compliant with the model code of practice,” Mr Burke said.

For the sake of clarity, the industry has reportedly agreed upon a new standard, which will be presented to a meeting of state and territory consumer affairs ministers on Friday.

In future, each chook will get at least one square metre to itself – the standard imposed by Coles and Woolworths. This would decrease the ideal minimum for each hen by five square metres, but also remove the unlimited exception.

Some companies purport to already hold themselves to far higher standards.

The New Daily has obtained from CHOICE the names of egg producers that claim to give their hens the minimum seven square metres or more.

This is not an exhaustive list. Do you know any companies that should be added? Please email suggestions to: jstiles@thenewdaily.com.au

Some of the lowest hen density products

long-paddockLong Paddock
54 square metres per hen
joshs-rainbow-eggsJosh’s Rainbow Eggs
33 square metres per hen
mulloon-creek2Mulloon Creek Biodynamic
28 square metres per hen
family-homesteadFamily Homestead
13 square metres per hen
macro-organicWoolworths Macro Organic
10 square metres per hen
fraser-coastFraser Coast
Six square metres per hen
mcleans-runMcLean’s Run
Six square metres per hen
kangaroo-islandKangaroo Island
Six square metres per hen
clare-valleyRohde’s Clare Valley
Six square metres per hen
sunny-queenSunny Queen
(Free range and organic free range)
Six square metres per hen
wild-hen-farmWild Hen Farm
Six square metres per hen
country-free-rangeCountry Range Farming
Six square metres per hen

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