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The New Free Range Egg Standards: What Do They Mean?

Government ministers met yesterday to decide on national standards for free range egg labelling but unfortunately the agreement they came to falls way short of what animal welfare groups and consumer group Choice were hoping for. The new standards agreed upon state that:

  • Eggs produced by hens stocked at up to 10,000 birds per hectare can be labelled as free range.
  • Egg cartons will have to display stocking densities.
  • Hens must have meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range.

Why do these standards fall short? Well firstly a stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare is way more than the 1,500 birds per hectare that the CSIRO Model Code recommends. Also, while hens must have meaningful (whatever that means!) access to the outdoors, they do not necessarily have to ever actually go outside.

Choice believes the new standards fail to meet consumers’ expectations of what free range actually means and are calling for a boycott of the big producers who are selling eggs from hens that don’t meet the CSIRO’s Model Code. Products on the boycott list include:

  • Aldi Lodge Farm
  • Coles Free Range Eggs
  • Country Fresh
  • Eco Eggs
  • Farm Pride
  • Field Fresh
  • Foodland
  • Golden Eggs
  • Manning Valley
  • Meggles Farm
  • Misty Mountain
  • Pace Farm
  • Pace Omega 3
  • South Gippsland
  • Woolworths Select
  • Pioneer
  • Otway
  • Essential Foods
  • MMM

So, which eggs should you buy? Look for eggs from hens stocked at 1,500 birds per hectare or less and check out Flavour Crusader’s Pastured and Free Range Egg Directory, which provides an extensive list of small scale producers with high animal welfare standards.

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