The Federal Agriculture Minister claims there will be more avian influenza outbreaks and more chicken deaths if there is an increase in free-range egg production.
Barnaby Joyce says a move by Woolworths to phase out eggs from caged production systems has the potential to destroy the New South Wales chicken flock and, subsequently, the state’s egg industry.
He says the Federal Government is assisting an egg farmer who had to destroy 400,000 birds after last week’s outbreak of avian influenza at Young in the state’s south-west.
“We pick up 80 per cent of the costs with dealing with that. Twenty per cent is handled by the grower.”
Mr Joyce says any increase in free range egg production would leave to more bird flu outbreaks.
“A big point to remember from this is that this virus got into the caged bird population from the free-range bird population.
“You’ve got the avian flu in (wild) ducks and when the ducks have contact with the birds it brings the disease in the shed.
“If we want to move to just free-range birds, this is going to be a problem that’s going to recur.
“If this disease got out of control, it could decimate the poultry flock in New South Wales.”