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  • 10 Sep 2014 12:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy Valley Free Range has won the 2014 Farmer of the Year Award!

    Joanne Stritch never dreamed of being a farmer, but her passion to deliver to the public pork that was raised in a natural caring environment lead her to create the Happy Valley Free Range farm.  This passion has paid off with her being named Livestock Producer of the Year for Farmer of the Year 2014.  Located in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Happy Valley is proud about its open farming methods.



    Happy Valley has been a certified Humane Choice farm for almost 3 years, and Joanne says it was important for her to be part of such a valued accreditation scheme.  “Being certified with such a high level true free range certifier says to my customers that we are very serious about raising our pigs properly on pasture, “ Joanne says, “I love to spoil the sows with their piglets and make sure they are well fed, watered, warm and dry.” 

    At the moment, Happy Valley farm has 21 sows.  Joanne is very careful about how she manages her pasture, and encourages and invites visitors to come and see their pigs.  “We’ve had a lot of visitors to see the pigs and took part in the Yarra Valley Food & Wine Festival, with sold out pig tours on both days. People just love coming to see the pigs in the paddocks, playing and grazing as they do.”

    Regular paddock rotations occur, and long spelling of paddocks has ensured the grass cover at the farm has stayed at optimum levels.  The breeding program ensures the wellbeing of sows and piglets at all stages of the process.   “Our breeding program is very natural. The boar and sows all live together in one paddock and the sow is moved to her own private paddock within two weeks of her farrowing date. She lives in her own paddock until the piglets are six to eight weeks old.”

    Happy Valley Free Range is an innovative small producer and the pigs are predominantly sold at Farmers Markets within Victoria.  They have become a part of the Yarra Valley community, and are open and honest about their farming methods, something that has become a rarity in the pork industry. 

    Joanne is keen on bringing people back to pork, and now has regular customers who have only begun eating pork again after having seen the Happy Valley farm and how they raise their pigs.  

    Happy Valley Free Range is a small, but special farm with their social media such as facebook growing every week.  Joanne is also distributing a weekly newsletter with information on farmers markets, recipes and news of life on the farm.  “I don’t want to have a big production, I like that I am the main human interaction with the pigs, that we are like one big family and every sow gets a big belly scratch,” Joanne says. 



    As the winner of one of the Farmer of the Year Awards, Happy Valley Free Range has come a long way for small producers, and is helping to ensure that the best free range practices continue to become a big part of the industry.

    There has been a lot of interest in Humane Choice certification recently, and if you think your farm could be a part of our accreditation scheme head to the Humane Choice website to see our standards:  www.humanechoice.com.au 

     


  • 24 Nov 2013 10:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Egg-cellent news for Consumers

    RASV launches a Free-Range Egg category in its Autumn Fine Food Awards

     

    This year the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) has made an exciting addition to its 2014 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards (RMFFA) Autumn Program, a Free-Range Egg category and award.

    In an industry first, the RMFFA will bring together an expert panel of judges to evaluate free-range eggs using criteria that are uniquely consumer-focused including taste, flavour and appearance.

    Consumer interest and demand for top quality free-range eggs has increased significantly in recent times and it is currently the fastest growing sector in the egg market. 

    In conjunction with industry experts, the RASV has adopted a definition of free-range eggs that aligns with industry standards and community expectations to form the basis for eligibility and judging for the category.

    RASV CEO Mark O’Sullivan said the introduction of the new category reflected the current climate of consumer interest in Australian free-range eggs.

    “The Free-Range Eggs category has been created in close consultation with industry specialistsand introduced to the 2014 RMFFA Autumn Program as a result of increased consumer demand for theseproducts.  

    “The RASV is delighted to be providing Australian free-range egg producers a platform from which to showcase and market their quality eggs to consumers,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

    Entries for the RMFFA Autumn Program are open from Thursday, 21 November 2013 to Friday, 24 January 2014, with judging to be held in February 2014.

    The RMFFA winners will also have an opportunity to showcase products at the 2014 Royal Melbourne Show in the Taste of Victoria Pavilion or as part of the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Deli Bags.

    For more information, visit http://www.rasv.com.au/Events/RMFF_Home and follow RMFFA on Twitter @RMFFA


  • 13 Aug 2013 12:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thousands of postcards signed by determined South Australians will be presented to the Minister for Business Services and Consumers John Rau today at a Humane Choice Free Range Breakfast.  These postcards represent the overwhelming support received from more than 18,000 South Australian consumers who are determined to endorse truth in labelling for eggs marked ‘free range’, meaning the stocking density would be capped at no more than 1,500 birds per hectare.

    Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice said, “The postcards send a powerful message because they targeted actual free range egg buyers having been distributed in the cartons of eggs produced by our Humane Choice true free range farmers.”  The incredible response from the public verifies that free range egg buyers believe the intensification of free range, and systems that restrict or discourage outdoor access for the hens, simply fail to meet their expectations.

    In June this year Minister Rau proposed a new industry code to settle this debate over a definition for ‘free range’, and once finalised it will make South Australia the only State in the nation to have taken such a critical initiative.  McCosker continued, “We are delighted that thousands of South Australians have shown their strong support towards true free range farmers whose livelihoods have been compromised by the immoral behaviour of large egg corporations and the supermarket giants in their attempt to cash in on the genuine demand for free range produce.”

    Minister Rau has received overwhelming support for his industry code that will only allow eggs produced by farms stocking 1,500 hens per hectare or less to be labelled ‘free range’.  These eggs will stand out proudly on the shelf, clearly marked with the South Australian Free Range label, meaning South Australian consumers will finally be able to pick out true free range eggs easily, without being deceived.

    South Australian’s are the only consumers in the country that will be given the opportunity to easily identify true free range eggs, making an informed purchasing decision.  Now that genuine free range eggs will be easily identifiable, we hope that this translates into real choices being made available on the shelves of the major supermarkets.  Throughout the rest of Australia there is still a confusing abundance of free range claims on eggs.  We hope that this move supported by so many thousands of Australians will encourage the other States and the Federal Government, to finally act and put an end to such unnecessary controversy.


  • 17 Jun 2013 12:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    South Australian Minister for Business Services and Consumers, John Rau, announced yesterday a new industry code to settle the debate over the definition of free range eggs.  The South Australian government has defined free range eggs as coming from hens stocked at 1,500 birds per hectare.  We congratulate Minister Rau for taking the initiative and attempting to put an end to the long running controversy over truth in labelling of free range eggs.

    Free range egg buyers have been at the mercy of large egg corporations seeking to cash in on demand for free range eggs aided by the supermarkets that seem to have taken on the role of industry regulator.

    This proposal gives the power back to the people by allowing them to make an informed buying decision and will encourage the supermarkets to make available a broader selection of eggs in their stores for that to happen.  It would be an interesting exercise to see just how many brands in the supermarket today would meet the criteria for the SA Free Range label.

    “I believe this industry code will actually bring clarity to the free range confusion and those producers that are meeting consumer expectation will stand out from the crowd.  Consumers will then be able to decide if they are willing to pay a little more for what they want, or accept eggs grown under a more intensive operation.  The choice will be made a lot clearer,” said Lee McCosker of Humane Choice*.

    There is still a confusing abundance of free range claims on eggs, many meaning very little, and they are eroding the integrity of the free range industry.  At least South Australian consumers will be able to weed out the less than honest ones.

    *Humane Choice is the certification scheme launched by Humane Society International in 2006 to improve the welfare standards of farm animals across Australia.  The Humane Choice label denotes the animal has had the best life and death offered to any farm animal, treated with respect and care over the entire course of its life.  It ensures the highest standards of animal welfare and guarantees that the animals are truly free range.  Visit www.humanechoice.com.au for more details.


  • 04 Feb 2013 12:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From:Mardirossian Armineh [mailto:AMardirossian@woolworths.com.au]
    Sent:Monday, 4 February 2013 3:07 PM
    Subject:Woolworths' Free Range Eggs

     

    Thank you for writing to us with your concerns about free range eggs. Some of you have engaged in further conversation with me on this matter and in the course of the correspondence it has become evident that there is a lot of confusion on the issue of hen stocking density for free range eggs. Subsequently we have made a decision to provide further information on-pack to help our customers with their purchasing choices.

     

    As explained in my previous email, Woolworths own brand eggs comply with the requirements of the Model Code of Practice for Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry (the Code) for each production system and the products are labelled accordingly.  However, the stocking density for free range eggs stated in the Code does leave room for interpretation of the acceptable maximum density which has led to confusion for both industry and consumers.

     

    The views on maximum density vary between animal welfare advocacy groups and producers. While we don’t believe the decision on maximum stocking density is in our area of expertise, we take our responsibility on clear labelling very seriously and always endeavour to provide our customers with clear information to help them make the choices that are important to them.

     

    To help reduce the confusion for our customers, Woolworths will move to:

     

    • label stocking densities on-pack for our own brand free range eggs sold under Macro and Select brands;
    •  
    • colour code own brand packs according to production system, and
    •  
    • display and label on-shelf by production system separating caged, barn laid and free range.

     

    While we cannot dictate these measures to other brands, we will encourage all brands supplying free range eggs in our stores move to clearly label their stocking density.

     

    More and more customers are choosing free range eggs and the sales are increasing year on year. Last year we saw a 20% increase in free range egg sales. However, caged eggs are still an affordable option for a lot of our customers and constitute 55% of all egg sales. Products on our shelves reflect our customers’ shopping preferences. We have millions of customers with diverse range of values and brand preferences and have a responsibility to meet the expectations of all our customers.  We respect the choices made by all our customers.

     

    Kind regards

    Armineh Mardirossian
    Head of Corporate Responsibility
    Community & Sustainability
    Woolworths Limited


  • 02 Nov 2012 12:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Two years of representations and hard lobbying by Humane Society International (HSI) on behalf of Humane Choice True Free Range producers has culminated in a damning report from the ACCC opposing the intensification of free range egg production.

    The theme throughout the comprehensive ACCC report is that the Australian Egg Corporation’s proposal to increase stocking rates for layer hens to 20,000 birds per hectare will not meet consumer expectations for free range production.

    “Although this has been obvious to the consumer for some time, industry has been relentless in their quest to highjack the term free range because big business had seen the potential to increase their profits substantially by labelling their eggs as free range” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice“This is a resounding victory for consumers, farmers and of course the chickens.”

    Of 1,700 submissions received by the ACCC on the proposed Egg Corporation Standards, a staggering 1,693 were in opposition.  There were only 7 submissions in Egg Corporations favour and they were probably by the producers most likely to benefit from the deception.

    “The consumer has sent a very loud message to anyone labelling their eggs free range as well as to the supermarket chains that are promoting stocking rates up to 20,000 birds for their in-house branded free range eggs. Quite simply, label any egg produced in a system with stocking rates higher than 1500 birds per hectare and you are misleading your customers,” said McCosker.

    The report from the ACCC is a welcome relief for true free range producers who were in danger of being put out of business.  NSW, TAS, WA and South Australia all have Bills before parliament capping free range stocking rates at 1500 birds per hectare and the ACCC findings would hopefully push these Bills over the line.

    We would like to thank the thousands of consumers who stood with us on this important issue to protect the integrity of free range farming into the future. “The people have spoken.  It would be a huge mistake by government not to listen,” says McCosker


  • 25 Sep 2012 12:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Humane Society International (HSI) has exposed the Australian Egg Corporation's (AECL) plan to mislead free range egg buyers with their erroneous interpretation of the Model Code of Practice for Animal Welfare.

    Claims by AECL that the code allows for unlimited numbers of hens on the range are nothing more than an attempt to manipulate the wording of the code of practice and deceive the public in the name of profit.

    "AECL have promoted their new plans to increase stocking rates to 20,000 birds per hectare as a responsible control measure when in reality it is nothing more than a deceptive undertaking to intensify free range production," said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice.

    HSI has sought a legal interpretation of the Model Code, which has confirmed what they have long known to be true, that the code sets a maximum stocking density for layer hens at 1500 hens per hectare.

    "Egg Corporation has attempted to take advantage of the consumers lack of understanding of poultry production systems and that the Model Code applies to both layer and meat birds.  When you are aware of this fact it shines a whole new light on the meaning and the intention of the code of practice," continued McCosker.

    To ensure consumers have their interest represented, HSI has also sought to enlighten all members of parliament with the truth so that they may better represent their constituents by fully understanding this issue.  A copy of the legal advice has been sent to every MP in the country.

    HSI has also brought this deception to the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the application currently before them for a Certification Trademark by the AECL is under investigation.

    "The consumer has driven the demand for free range and it will be the consumer that decides what defines the term.  The ACCC has made sure they have been given a voice on this issue," concluded McCosker.

    AECL, the egg industry peak body, will need to come up with another term for their proposed system and call it something that consumers and genuine free range farmers will accept.


  • 21 Sep 2012 12:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Making a conscious decision to purchase food for the family table that has been grown under more natural, welfare friendly and sustainable methods is a personal choice and one that we all have the right to make.   But just how much do we understand about our food systems, or indeed, how much do we really want to know? The realities of farming animals for food can be confronting.

     

     Knowledge brings with it a sense of responsibility and perhaps a level of accountability that makes us a little uncomfortable especially when we know that all we have to rely on is the wording on a label.

    The words free range summon images of farm animals enjoying a bucolic and happy life grazing on open fields and free of the restraints of cages and crates and overcrowding that we have learned are the norm in intensive, factory farms.

    We are concerned enough that we are prepared to spend extra money to ensure that the food we bring to our family table is grown with respect for the animal that produced it.  We explore the food’s labels and the claims of organic, free range, free roaming and all natural soothe our concerns and give us confidence that we are supporting a production system that farms our food with humanity and respect, giving the animal the best life possible.

    Its so much easier to trust in a label that says ‘free range’  and allow it to triggers our own understanding of the term, censoring niggling doubts and consequently ticking off those boxes in our conscience.

    Unfortunately our concern for animal welfare, wholesome food production and our faith in food labelling is naïve and being exploited by industry and somewhere in the recesses of our minds we know this but what other choice do we have?

    Its not rocket science to figure out that factory farming it is definitely not in the best interest of the animals.  Intensive production is about producing eggs and meat at the least possible cost while cutting every corner in the name of efficient production.

    Raising animals under free range conditions should have been the solution to factory farming and for a very short while it was.  As demand has grown so to has the pressure from major supermarkets to get a piece of the action. Unfortunately not only do the supermarkets want to stock their shelves with free range labels, they want it as cheap as possible. Major supermarkets are now applying the same pressure to free range production: faster, bigger, cheaper.

    As they say, knowledge is power so perhaps a quick overview of the humble beginnings of agriculture will enlighten.

    The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years and has been defined by different cultures and climates and in more recent times, technology. Modern society and agriculture have grown together and brought about community, human values and a respect for natural resources. Major cities and town have grown up around agricultural centres.

    Over the past century large scale agriculture has spread rapidly throughout the developed world with the introduction of machine driven farming equipment and the development of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.  These large scale farms are based on monocultures and now dominate the modern farming landscape.  Transport systems now allow us to ship produce anywhere in the world.  Organised society has come a long way from our original hunter gatherer lifestyle.

    We no longer have to give much thought to where tonight’s meal is coming from, or do we? Concerns have been raised over the sustainability of landless or feedlot systems and monocultures typical of intensive farming practices.  Intensive farming systems are now often independent of local and natural resources, the very foundation on which modern agriculture was founded Has intensive agriculture gone too far? These concerns have driven the demand for food produced under organic or free range systems and the growth of specialty grocers and farmers markets. There is a ‘back to basics’ movement growing in our rural communities and in the minds of concerned consumers.

    Limited time, resources and a lack of awareness of the power they have in their purse, means today’s busy consumer puts blind faith in labels trusting that the supermarkets are accountable for such claims instead of asking those all important questions.  They have little concept of how big a difference they could make if they just said ‘I want’.  I want truth in labelling. I want free range to be free to range. I want to buy food from sustainable farms and I want and I expect that I am getting what I have paid for.

    While the supermarkets are employing smoke and mirror tactics over label claims, the peak egg industry body in Australia is busy bullying government and producers into allowing the intensification of the free range industry without a single concern for what the consumer wants or expects.

    The problem of defining free range is a universal one but no other country has tried to push the boundaries of that meaning as far as Australia’s Egg Corporation.

    The Australian Egg Corporation is attempting to manipulate the Code of Practice for Animal Welfare for the benefit of the large corporate producers and to appease the supermarkets demands for more free range product.  All parties stand to make a tidy profit by taking advantage of the demand for free range all the while assuming the consumer is too ignorant to catch on.

    Its time to exert some consumer muscle and send a very loud message to the industry and to government that consumers have driven the demand for free range product and they have an expectation of what free range means and that they will not tolerated being conned.  The consumer will decide what free range means.

    Humane Choice, a division of Humane Society International, represents true free range producers and they have taken this argument to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission resulting in an ongoing investigation into the Egg Corporations proposal to increase stocking densities for layer hens to 20,000 birds per hectare. The consumer is finally being given a voice but we have a long battle ahead of us to keep the free range industry true.

    Sustaining consumer choice is worth fighting for.

    Send an online postcard and help keep free range free to range!


  • 26 Jul 2012 12:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Today the Australian Egg Corporation (AECL) convened its Board Forum in Adelaide to an empty room.

    AECL sought attendance by all South Australian egg producers at the forum but the majority of producers have boycotted the meeting.  The greatest number of egg producers in South Australia are free range farmers who wish to send a clear message to the Board of AECL that they have no confidence in AECL’s ability to represent the interests of genuine free range producers.

    “There are 18 free range egg farmers in SA following the guidelines of our Humane Choice Standard or the Model Code of Practice, and have modelled their production systems around stocking densities no higher than 1,500 birds per hectare.  These farms represent the majority of producers for this state,” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice and spokesperson for SA producers“These farmers stand to be put out of business by the very organisation that purport to stand beside them should 20,000 hens per hectare become accepted practice and define free range,” continued McCosker.

    AECL are struggling to gain any acceptance for their new egg standard that would allow the massive stocking rate increases.  Producers have shunned them and are embarrassed by AECL’s attempts to scam consumers, and rightly so. The ACCC has put a hold on the AECL Certification Trademark and called for public comment on the new egg standard, and consumers registered their anger and disbelief at the proposal by AECL in vast numbers.

    “Free range producers have offered a very simple solution to this egg labelling dilemma:  simply call it something else.  No one is saying they can’t produce eggs under these intensive outdoor systems, just be honest and label accordingly,” said McCosker.


  • 10 Jul 2012 12:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week Australian Egg Corporation launched an attack on consumer advocacy group CHOICE accusing them of misleading consumers about stocking densities for layer hens and claiming that their actions will increase the price of eggs as high as $12.80 per dozen.

    “Simply outrageous claims,” says Lee McCosker Chief Operating Officer for Humane ChoiceEgg Corporation is very worried about the power the consumer has on the issue of defining free range egg labels and with a reported 1,200 submissions to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on this very issue, Egg Corp have good reason to worry. The only defence they have left is to attack organisations backing the consumer.”

    Australian Egg Corporation have put all their eggs into one basket and had hoped that their new and erroneous interpretation of the Model Code would go unnoticed.  The Model Code clearly states: “Outdoors for layer hens a maximum of 1,500 birds per hectare.”

    The Model Code is not the only guideline stipulating stocking rates for free range hens.  The Environmental Guidelines for the Australian Egg Industry also requires that free range hens “should not have a stocking density in excess of 1,500 birds/ha.”

    “We believe the egg industry plans to line the pockets of the big players in this industry have been exposed and know they are pulling out all the stops to keep them on track, even if that means ignoring what the consumer has to say on this matter,” says McCosker.

    “There is a much simpler solution and one that will preserve the integrity of the free range industry, and steer it off this path of destruction.  We need another egg category to define the production systems that Egg Corporation is promoting.  I am sure the money spent defending their current actions could be put to much better use”, suggests McCosker.


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