Defining free-range eggs

If you haven’t heard the news, the Australian Egg Corporation this week sent a draft of ‘free-range standards’ to egg producers/farmers which proposes to allow a free-range egg farm to run as many as 20,000 chickens per hectare instead of the industry’s current model of 1,500 chickens per hectare.

Allegedly there are egg producers who falsely claim to have free-range chickens. This is, of course, a great concern to ethically minded consumers (or economically minded – who wants to pay twice the price for nothing?). Whilst it’s great that the Australian Egg Corporation is trying to define what is considered ‘free-range’ and enforce a minimum standard, I think that this number (roughly two birds per square meter) should be the minimum industry standard for cage or barn chickens – but not free-range chickens!

I’m not sure about you, but when I buy free-range eggs I like to envisage chickens roaming an open pasture in the open sun, free to peck at the ground and eat bugs and worms (which is their more natural eating habits – not pellets or grains). This is why I am willing to pay almost double the cost. I realise I may have false hope and ideals in the eggs I am buying – as the AEC have made us aware, without standards producers can make false claims.

So what are your choices?

I haven’t found any online petitions yet, but write to the AEC and tell them what you think. We, as consumers, need to have our opinions heard.

Another alternative is to find an RSPCA approved egg producer, which apparently carries an RSPCA sticker. A list of stockists can be found here.

I’m going to go that one step further – have my own chickens.

My partner and I are currently in the process of building a chicken coop. It’s the only way we know that the chickens will be ethically treated, fed nutritious food, allowed to roam in the sun and most importantly are allowed to live long natural lives hormone free. This will, in return, produce healthy eggs. I’ll be sure to tell you more about this process later – how we designed and built the coop, and how the chickens go!

To read more about how the RSPCA have been campaigning to define the standards for chickens go here. Decide yourself what you think is fair.


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