[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”Conventional Egg Farming”/]

The facts

About two thirds of the eggs produced in Australia come from battery hens. These hens spend their entire lives in wire cages with less space than an A4 piece of paper per bird. Inside these cages:

  • Hens are unable to turn around, stretch out, flap their wings or exercise
  • Hens are unable to satisfy their behavioural needs to perch, forage and lay their eggs in a secluded nest ¹
  • Hens may suffer severe ‘defeathering’ from rubbing against their wire enclosures
  • Their feet can become entangled in the wire that they stand on, while weaker birds may die unnoticed in their cages, trampled by cage mates
  • Lack of exercise causes hens’ bones to become weak, brittle and break easily

Chicks destined to become battery hens have their beaks trimmed either with a hot blade, laser or infrared technology. Beak trimming can cause both acute and chronic pain.

…Studies have shown that 1 in 6 hens inside battery cages live with broken bones…

…The living space of a battery hen is smaller than one A4 piece of paper…

What are the alternatives?

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”Free Range Eggs”/]

The facts

There is no legally binding definition for the term free range in Australia so it is difficult to define exactly how free range eggs are produced. Government guidelines exist for free range egg production (Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry 4th Ed.), however these guidelines are not legally enforceable. Adherence by producers is voluntary and there is no one checking the guidelines are being followed.

There are several accreditation schemes that set their own standards for free range egg production. Accredited producers must comply with the standards in order to carry the logo or stamp of the particular scheme. Regular audits are carried out to ensure compliance. The standards set out by the different schemes vary somewhat but at a minimum, free range eggs must come from hens that:

    • Are not kept in cages
    • Have unlimited access to the outdoors during daylight hours

The main differences between the free range egg accreditation schemes are:

      • Stocking densities (i.e. how many birds are kept in a given space)
      • Whether or not they allow mutilations (e.g. beak trimming)


See following table for a comparison of the standards of the different schemes:

Humane Choice
Stocking density per shed(birds per sq metre)
Max 5
Max 9
Max 7**
Stocking density per outdoor paddock (birds per hectare)
Max 20,000
Max 1,500
Max 1,500 or 2,500(if outdoor range is rotated)
Max 750
Max 750
Allow Beak Trimming

*Depends on the number of birds. No more than 4,000 per shed.

** No more than 1000 birds per shed.

*** Based upon veterinary advice. Only in the first 10 days of life if other measures fail to control cannibalism.

The accreditation schemes that have the highest standards of animal welfare (i.e. lowest stocking densities and prohibition of mutilations) are Humane Choice, Free Range Farmers of Victoria (FRFA VIC) and Free Range Poultry Association of Queensland (FRPA QLD).

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”Barn Laid Eggs”/]

The facts

In barn laid systems hens do not live in cages but are housed in either single or multi-tier sheds. Hens can move around within the shed and are provided with perches, nest boxes in which they can lay their eggs and litter areas to scratch and dust bathe in. While barn laid systems are an improvement on cage systems they pose the following welfare issues:

      • Hens do not have access to the outdoors
      • Barn laid systems allow mutilations, such as beak trimming

The RSPCA runs a scheme for accrediting barn laid systems.

…Another term often used for ‘Barn Laid’ is ‘Cage Free’…

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”Organic & Biodynamic Eggs”/]

The facts

Organic food is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and with a focus on environmentally sustainable practices.

Certified organic produce that carries the stamp or logo of one of the seven Australian Accredited Organic Certifiers has met the organic standards (see below) and is audited annually to ensure continuing compliance with these standards. All organic and biodynamic eggs are also free range. Hens raised within organic farming systems must be:

      • Able to roam and graze freely with access to the outdoors
      • Able to perform their natural behaviours
      • Fed certified organic feeds
      • Free from growth hormones or antibiotics
      • Free from mutilations, such as beak trimming

“…Biodynamic egg producers must adhere to the same animal welfare standards that apply to organic eggs…”

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”Other Labels”/]

Eco Eggs

Eco Eggs are accredited free range eggs (see above for definition of free range) and use an independent auditor for their free range accreditation. The standards followed are similar to those of AEC (see table above).

Eco Eggs contain more than the usual amounts of certain nutrients (e.g. the omega 3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) as well as several vitamins and minerals) when compared with ordinary eggs. This is achieved by feeding the hens a diet that has been enriched with these nutrients.

Environmental Eggs

While the producers of Environmental Eggs contribute profits to environmental initiatives, use recycled packaging and recycle their waste water, the eggs come from battery hens. So from an animal welfare perspective these eggs are not any better than cage eggs.

“…other labels you may see on egg cartons include farm fresh, natural etc. These labels mean nothing in terms of how the eggs were produced. These slogans usually are a marketing ploy to try and influence consumers…”

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”What To Buy”/]

Highest animal welfare choices:

  • Certified organic and biodynamic eggs and free range eggs accredited by Humane Choice, Free Range Farmers Victoria (FRFA VIC) and Free Range Poultry Association of Queensland (FRPA QLD)
  • Look for the following logos:

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”Most Ethical Choices”/]


Next best:

  • Free range eggs accredited by FREPA and RSPCA
  • Look for the following logos:

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” alt=”Next Best”/]

The RSPCA does not require that farms provide hens with access to an outdoor range area to receive the RSPCA Paw of Approval. Indoor egg farms (aka Barn Laid – see above) are guided by a different set of RSPCA standards and can still receive the Paw of Approval.

[image link=”” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730″ alt=”Where To Buy”/]
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  • Many of the large and some of the smaller supermarket chains carry certified organic eggs
  • Specialty health food stores
  • Organic butchers and butchers specializing in free range meats
  • Farmers’ markets: see to find markets in your local area
  • See our Where to Buy page for stockists and online retailers

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