HSI DEMANDS JOYCE, “MINISTER FOR CAGED EGGS”, WITHDRAWS HIS DAMNING STATEMENTS AGAINST FREE RANGE EGG PRODUCERs
Recent news reports that the outbreak of bird flu near Young last October could throw Australian free range egg production into long-term disarray has angered Humane Society International (HSI), since the farm was not free range at all. Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, was quick to lay the blame for the outbreak on the free range egg industry which fitted in perfectly with his mission to discourage supermarkets from phasing out caged eggs.
Contrary to his statements, the farm in question was anything but free range, stocking a massive amount of hens on a small plot of land. HSI Director Verna Simpson said, “The Young property stocked 420,000 birds of which 240,000 were in a caged facility, whilst the rest were classed as ‘free range’ and kept on a couple of hectares. The stocking rate of their free range operation equated to an enormous 80,000 hens per hectare – this is far from free range when you compare to the genuine free range farms who abide by the 1,500 hens per hectare prescribed in the Model Code*.”
In 2011 Australian Egg Corporation Limited (Egg Corp) proposed to increase the maximum stocking density for free range hens from 1,500 to 20,000 birds per hectare under their Egg Corp Assured program, acknowledging that some of their farms run up to 50,000 hens/ha. So we would imagine that even by their standards, a stocking density of 80,000 hens/ha as per the Young facility would be a stretch even for an Egg Corp Assured egg producer. Ms Simpson continued, “We question how Egg Corp could ever have allowed eggs coming from such an overstocked farm to be stamped as ‘free range’, and pity the consumers who are duped at the supermarket checkout.”
Mr Joyce’s comments were ill informed, inaccurate and allegedly served another agenda. The fact is that there has NEVER been an outbreak of bird flu traced back to a REAL free range egg farm in Australia. HSI wrote to Mr Joyce last October and again in mid-December explaining that as Agriculture Minister he should be representing all egg production systems equally, and that his comments could prove highly damaging to small free range egg farms given his bias towards large-scale caged egg producers. Mr Joyce has so far failed to respond to our latest letter in which we asked him yet again to withdraw his damaging statements and instead support true free range farmers and the small producers he is supposed to represent.