One of the biggest free range egg producers in New South Wales, The Free Range Project, has signed up to Humane Choice – Humane Society International’s certification scheme designed to help Australian consumers make ethical choices and not be duped by false marketing.
Never before have Australian consumers been so concerned about all stages of animal production, demanding farmed products that minimise cruelty and suffering. Consumers are increasingly seeking reassurance from the information on packaging to check that the produce they buy was treated ethically throughout its journey to their table.
With the confusing array of messages on the labels of animal-derived produce, Humane Society International launched Humane Choice more than a decade ago, guaranteeing the highest standards of animal welfare. The label provides a guarantee that the produce is truly free range and the animals are treated with respect and care throughout their lives.
The Free Range Project producing Clarendon Farms Eggs is owned and managed by Ian Littleton and occupies more than 300 acres near Mudgee in New South Wales. Their traditional free range farming model is thriving, with more than 6,000 egg laying hens roaming freely on pasture all day, every day, and returning to their portable nesting and roosting houses at night. With a flock of Maremma guardian dogs living alongside the hens to protect them, they are kept safe from foxes and other predators at all times.
Mr Littleton said, “I decided to apply for accreditation with Humane Choice because of their commitment that free range production should provide genuine animal welfare advantages. Humane Choice insists that the original free range standard of a low stocking rate of less than 1500 birds per hectare be maintained. On our farm we run 500 hens per hectare. This together with their requirement of a relatively small colony of birds per house reduces stress on the flock and eliminates the need for beak trimming, a practice the organisation prohibits.” Mr Littleton continues, “Many of you probably have backyard hens or have friends who do. If you just spend a little time observing those birds you will see just how important a sensory organ that beak is; as the bird uses it to help pick and choose what is edible or not.”
Humane Choice spokesperson Georgie Dolphin said, “With an outdoor stocking density well below 1500 hens per hectare, The Free Range Project delivers free range eggs that actually meet consumer expectations, a far cry from the 10,000 birds per hectare upper limit endorsed by the government’s National Free Range Egg Standard.”
Mr Littleton concludes, “I have been producing free range eggs for over 25 years and it has been disappointing to see the intensive egg industry slowly come to realise that consumers really want free range eggs, but then react by pushing to massively increasing stocking rates diluting any welfare advantages to produce a product that may be called free range, but is not really what consumers were expecting.”
As a large producer of true free range eggs in New South Wales, The Free Range Project is helping to ensure that the best free range practices continue to become a big part of the industry. With the addition of the Humane Choice label donning their egg cartons, they are setting themselves apart in the marketplace and making it an even easier ethical choice for Australian consumers. Visit www.HumaneChoice.com.au to view their animal welfare standards and full details of their true free range producers.