‘Free range’ needs to mean more than just space for Aussie hens
RSPCA Australia is calling on the Australian Government to ensure the new national standard for free-range egg labelling actually means higher welfare for the hen.
Public consultation on the issue is currently open for Australians to have their say on how labelling can increase consumer certainty about how eggs are produced and the RSPCA is eager to ensure the new standards are about more than just space and outdoor access.
"We know animal welfare is the number one reason consumers buy free-range eggs, so it's vital the term 'free range' actually means the hen's welfare needs are being met," said marketing manager Humane Food, RSPCA Australia Hope Bertram.
"Good welfare is more than just the size of the range area - it's about meeting all the behavioural needs of the hen, both inside and outside the shed," said Ms Bertram.
The RSPCA is calling for the following requirements to be adhered to in order for eggs to be given the 'free range' label.
Hens that have access to the outdoors need:
• Easy access to the range
• Overhead cover to feel safe
• Shaded areas to protect them from the sun
• Palatable vegetation for foraging
• Space - 1500-2500 birds per hectare
The conditions inside the shed or barn need to provide:
• Nests for egg laying
• Perches for roosting
• Litter for foraging and dust bathing
• Objects for pecking
• Space - max. 9 birds per square metre
"We know Australians care about hen welfare and they want to be assured the label on the egg carton is a true reflection of how the hen is kept. Getting this standard right is vital for hen welfare and for consumer confidence in the egg industry," said Ms Bertram.