The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has called for public comment on the Australian Egg Corporation’s new proposal for free range egg production standards. The proposal would see stocking densities for 'free range' chickens increase from 1,500 birds per hectare to 20,000 birds per hectare.
Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, opposes the Australian Egg Corporation’s (AECL) new egg production standards which provide for an increase in stocking densities for laying 'free-range' hens from 1,500 to 20,000 birds per hectare.
We are concerned that the objective of the proposed new standards, namely to achieve ‘best practice in the production of eggs at farm level’, and also the claim to ‘protect the welfare of flocks’, is misleading to consumers, and fails to satisfy the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) requirement for consumer protection and principles of competition.
There is insufficient scientific literature available to support conclusions of appropriate stocking densities for laying hens. Therefore, guarantees cannot be made on hen welfare with the proposed density increases. Sentient supports the development of further research into the welfare implications of stocking densities before such significant increases in bird housing densities are instituted.
In the meantime, Sentient supports recommendations such as The Free Range Egg Society and The RSPCA Australia's Approved Farming Scheme's provisions, including
- stocking densities of 2,500 birds per hectare or 30kg live weight per square metre
- the phasing out of cages and promotion of cage-free laying hen systems
- meeting the hens’ needs to express natural behaviours by allocation for perching space, nesting boxes, litter, freedom to stretch and flap wings, and overhead cover to provide protection from overhead predators
- the phasing out of beak trimming and promotion of management strategies and genetic selection to reduce the incidence of feather pecking and cannibalism
Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics