‘Free-Range’ Eggs: Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

Egg-laying chickensThe Australian Egg Corporation is pushing ahead with plans to alter the definition of “free-range eggs” to allow farms that confine as many as 20,000 hens per hectare to sell their eggs as “free-range”, despite opposition from animal welfare and consumer groups, MPs and even some free-range egg producers themselves.

The present model code recommends that free-range farms confine no more than 1,500 birds per hectare. If the Australian Egg Corporation’s proposal passes, farms could keep up to two chickens per square metre and still be classified as “free-range”.

There is already a lack of labeling laws in Australia, which enables many egg and chicken-meat producers to use vague and misleading labels such as “barn laid”, “free to roam” and “cage-free”. These labels do not provide consumers with any assurance about the space that chickens are allowed or the way that they have been treated. Investigations have revealed that many animals raised on “free-range” farms endure the same cruel conditions as those on factory farms. Hens on many free-range farms are raised in dark, severely crowded sheds, and male chicks on these farms are often suffocated or ground up alive in machines called “eviscerators” because they are of no use in egg production.

In 2011, KFC Australia dropped the term “free to roam” from its advertising after the national consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced cases against some of KFC’s biggest chicken suppliers. The ACCC alleged that the suppliers misled consumers by using the term “free to roam” to describe facilities where up to 20 chickens were crammed into each square metre of a barn.

We can help ensure that the Australian Egg Corporation doesn’t get away with misleading consumers about “free-range” farms by supporting the New South Wales Greens MP John Kaye’s Truth in Labelling campaign. Of course, the best way to save chickens and other animals from suffering for eggs, meat and dairy products is go vegan today.

Posted by Ashley Fruno