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  • 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.

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

    Humane Choice True Free Range would like to thank VoicelessAnimals Australia and the RSPCA for their unanimous support of our complaint that resulted in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) calling for public comment on the definition of free range eggs.

    The opportunity to express concern or an opinion on the Australian Egg Corporation’s (AECL) proposal to increase layer hen stocking densities to a massive 20,000 birds per hectare closed yesterday.

    “Until the ACCC stepped into this debate the consumer had been ignored on this issue.  They have now been given a voice and we believe it will be collectively a resounding vote against the AECL proposal,” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer of Humane Choice. “We anticipate thousands of responses will be delivered to the ACCC.”

    Humane Choice brought to the attention of the ACCC the inequity of an application by AECL for a Certification Trademark that was currently before them in March last year.

    “We asked the ACCC to reject the application not only because there had not been adequate consultation with all egg producers, but because the consumer stood to be misled by the term ‘free range’ if the application were to be successful, and stocking rates increased to intensive production levels,” said McCosker.

    Animal welfare groups have worked together to help uphold this complaint and have been effective in distributing the information needed to help consumers have their say on what they expect from a carton of eggs labelled as ‘free range’.  

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

    Humane Society International (HSI) congratulates Councillor John Arkan of Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) for joining the fight against Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL).  AECL recently proposed changes to industry standards allowing an increased stocking density for free range hens from 1,500 to 20,000 birds per hectare, a massive 13 fold increase.

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have called for comments on the proposed changes which are now due by 30th June 2012.  Coffs Harbour City Council voted unanimously to make a submission to the ACCC and they hope neighbouring Councils will follow their example and do the same.

    Humane Society International calls for other Councils to step in and join Coffs Harbour City Council in an effort to protect consumers, producers, and of course the hens, by arguing that the lower limit of 1,500 hens per hectare must be enforced.  The proposed standard would be welcomed by larger industrialized producers because it would allow them to market more of their eggs as ‘free range’, but it could potentially devastate genuine free range egg farmers.  If the changes were passed it would also mean that the term ‘free range’ would no longer reflect consumer expectations, affecting consumer confidence in the egg industry.

    The Government model for addressing these issues is to put it in the too hard basket and hand it back to industry to self regulate.  The history of industry self regulation is a grim one when dealing with livestock issues, as we all witnessed in the recent live trade debate.  The way peak industry bodies operate is to favour the large industrial producers at the cost of real Australian farmers.  This current egg debate is a good example of how this works.  Egg Corporation (AECL) have identified the growing demand for free range eggs but rather than support the true free range farmers in expansion, they want to redefine free range to suit the existing production methods already used by Egg Corp assured farms, running more than 20,000 hens per hectare.  This is blatant fraud perpetuated by industry and is being sanctioned by Government.

    We applaud Coffs Harbour Council for speaking up for their producers and constituents and encourage other Councils to follow suit.

    To find out more about how you can provide comments to the ACCC, due by their extended deadline of 30th June 2012, click on this link which will take you to the relevant page on our website.

  • 24 May 2012 12:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) called for public comment on the proposed Australian Egg Corporation’s (AECL)  new standard that would allow an increase in stocking density for layer hens to 20,000 birds per hectare.

    Humane Choice first brought this matter to the ACCC’s attention fifteen months ago.

    “When we learned that the Egg Corporation (AECL) had applied for a Certification Trademark we appealed to the ACCC to reject the application because of the unacceptable proposal to increase stocking rates and the lack of consultation with the egg industry,” said Lee McCosker Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice. “This did result in putting the AECL plans in a holding pattern and explains why we have not seen the standard released to date, but it also resulted in state wide consultation with producers.”

    AECL has had to revise its application several times, with the first submissions not even making reference to the proposed stocking increase even though they had displayed a version of the new standard on the AECL website and informed producers of their intentions.

    “It appears the intention of the AECL was to present a standard to the ACCC that suited the larger industrialized producers while seriously marginalizing the genuine free range farmer.  We can only trust that the ACCC has recognised this and also acknowledged that the consumer will be disadvantaged if this standard were to ever make it into the marketplace,” McCosker said.  “The AECL Egg Standard is not about distinguishing certified producers by the application of the ESA Mark, it is an attempt to make sweeping changes to the entire egg industry, and consumers and true free range farmers will just not tolerate that.”

    You can read all about the ACCC call for comment and how to participate at this link

  • 21 May 2012 12:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Humane Society International praises Tasmania’s move to make battery hen farming history as well as fast-tracking the phasing out of sow stalls for pigs in response to increased demand for ethical produce.  Being the first Australian state to make this move, Tasmania is making history and is moving towards becoming ‘the humane state of Australia’, leaving the others well behind.  The European Union recently celebrated a similar victory, making battery cages illegal at the beginning of 2012, sparing the welfare of at least 300 million hens from these inhumane living conditions.

    The battery cage typically holds four or five hens with floor space per bird less than an A4 sheet of paper, preventing them from spreading their wings or displaying the most basic natural behaviours.  Poor ventilation, low light levels, and often being forced to stand on a sloping wire mesh floor, only adds to the extreme physical and psychological stress these animals endure.  Sow stalls are equally inhumane, confining a pregnant sow to such an extent that she is unable to turn around.  Many consumers have responded by attempting to choose free range eggs and pork, favouring the ethical alternatives, however, this can be a challenging task with no labelling laws in Australia to distinguish the true free range products.

    “As there are no laws in place in Australia to enforce clear labelling of ethically produced meat and eggs, the rights of consumers and small producers are sacrificed because humane products are so difficult to identify,” says Verna Simpson, HSI Director“If the Australian Government refuses to improve labelling laws and instead continues to allow for consumers to be misled, then Tasmania could secure a major proportion of the emerging market for ethical produce.”

    The move towards ethical farming methods by both Tasmania and the EU only highlights an even greater need for the remaining Australian states to follow suit and step up, following their example.  The $2.5 million initiative puts Tasmania at the forefront of animal welfare standards.  They are placing an immediate ban on future battery hen operations and capping existing hen stock during the transition.  They have also committed to phase out sow stalls by mid-2013, well before the industry’s target of 2017.  Again, Australia falls well behind given that sow stalls were banned over a decade ago in countries such as the UK.

    Although HSI will continue to work towards the legislation of truth in labelling for ethical produce so consumers are no longer misled and small producers are protected, we have today written to Tasmanian Primaries Industry Minister Bryan Green requesting a meeting to discuss the potential for Tasmania to become ‘the Humane State’.

  • 16 May 2012 12:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Humane Choice has launched a new campaign in a bid to bring some clarity to the free range egg debate.  With Australian Egg Corporation hell bent on commandeering the free range market for its largest members and ignoring the consumer, the genuine true free range egg producers look like being put out of business unless there is some way of telling the intensive eggs from the real deal.

    “There are two things that the industrialized producers will never be able to guarantee consumers and they are that their hens were grazed on pasture, and that they were given plenty of room to move and forage naturally as part of a sustainable farming system.  PROOF is an acronym for ‘Pasture Raised On Open Fields’ and that is exactly what our producers provide,” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice. “We are encouraging all free range producers from all livestock systems to get behind this campaign and let the public know that if they are going to purchase free range eggs, chicken, or pork, they must ask for PROOF.”

    Egg Corporation has employed every tactic possible, from scare mongering about having to import eggs to contemptible lies about nonexistent science supporting their proposed increase in stocking densities to 20,000 hens per hectare. There have even been outrageous claims of needing to feed the world with free range eggs and that without an increase in hen stocking rates, prices would increase to over $12 a dozen.  All this is just propaganda to secure the industry for those at the top of the ladder and sitting on the board of Australian Egg Corporation.

    “The consumer is so confused and without a legal definition for free range, they are being taken advantage of and ripped off.  We need to sustain consumer choice and simplify this debate for them.  When buying free range eggs simply ask for PROOF.  Humane Choice certification will offer all the proof you need that your eggs are true free range,” says McCosker.

  • 01 May 2012 6:30 PM | Anonymous
    Australian Egg Corporation Purposely Misrepresents Study for Own Gain

    Australian Egg Corporation (AECL) have based an increase in stocking densities for free range hens to 20,000 per hectare based on a study by the Avian Science Research Centre in Scotland.


    The study, entitled “Behavioural responses to different floor space allowances in small groups of laying hens”, is just that; a study of space allowances for hens kept indoors, not in a free range environment.


    The study does make reference to free range hens but only when it acknowledges that outdoor allowances in the EU is 40,000 cm2 per bird, an equivalent of  2,500 birds per hectare.


    The Scottish Research Centre has confirmed to us that this study relates only to indoor hens and that conclusions about free range stocking densities cannot be drawn from this study without alteration and considerable research on what is acceptable outdoors to back it up.


    What this study does tell us is that we should be reducing indoor stocking densities for Australian flocks from a currently allowable 15 to just 2 birds per square metre.


    Unfortunately we don’t believe that AECL will be as keen to adopt the findings of this study to address stocking densities for intensively housed sheds as this would severely impact on the profits of the large cage and barn producers, the same producers in many instances that are behind the push to increase free range densities.


    This is an embarrassing situation for AECL but signals just what lengths they will go to to secure the free range industry for their larger members without any regard for the consumer, the environment or the true free range farmer.


    AECL have now attempted to reinvent the intent and meaning of not only the Model Code of Practice with their erroneous interpretations, but now they have done the same to science, the very foundation they claim to base the egg industry’s practices on.

  • 27 Apr 2012 12:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Animal welfare is intrinsically linked to farming practices and the ethics of the producer. Humane Choice has long been an advocate for farmers that are committed to a whole of farm philosophy where animals are not just viewed as a commodity; they are an integral part of the farm.

    “The intensification of free range production does not fit with our philosophy or consumer expectations,” says Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice. “Our farmers have worked hard to promote a free range alternative and this market has grown substantially over the past 5 years. They are now fighting to hold on to that.  When the industry peak body’s sole motivation is profit, how can we entrust truth in labelling to them that encompasses all our concerns and includes animal welfare, the environment and consumer rights?”

    The Greens NSW have been pushing for a standard definition of free-range eggs and measures to stop unscrupulous producers falsely claiming free range status. Humane Choice supports such a move and encourages anyone that believes in truth in labelling to get behind this Bill and let their local member know that they must be heard on this issue.

    There is a growing movement of ‘back to basics’ farmers that want to produce food, not just a commodity. They want to embrace community, old fashioned human values and farm their livestock and land with respect.  If you would like to learn more, join Lee McCosker on the 7th May at Leichhardt Town Hall where she will speak about the issues important to free range pastured egg producers and consumers alike and what you can do to support them.

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