Friday, January 25, 2013

The "Cage Free" Myth

Coles is so proud of their "cage-free egg policy" that they wrote an article about it in their free magazine, and I just couldn't stop myself from looking into it. They say, quote:

"We consulted many experts and set a target at 10,000 birds per hectare for cage-free layer hens. It was about finding a balance between egg affordability and welfare."

Oh really? I think you need better experts. Well, here's a bit of a heads up for you consumers: 1 hectare is 10,000 square meters. Do the math. That's one square meter per bird. (In contrast, the Free Range Farmers website page on Hen Welfare describe a 1500 hen limit per hectare to be considered free range for commercial producers, and all FRFA member farms have a stocking density limit of 750 hens per hectare.)

Anyone who knows anything about chickens knows that they scratch at the ground and poke about for bugs, grass, etc. They tear up the ground pretty good in a few days. If you had *4* hectares and rotated the birds, you wouldn't have enough room to give the ground enough time to recover, to give the chickens the best possible grazing. They go on to say:

"It would be detrimental to drive down to lower density levels if it meant ending up with eggs costing six or seven dollars."

You mean... like the cost of your free range eggs? They vary anywhere from $5 to $7, depending on what brand you get. And, right back to the Free Range Farmers website, they say free range isn't as free range as you might think:

"The Egg Corporation admits that a third of eggs labelled as free range are from intensive farms, some with 40,000 and even up to 100,000 hens per hectare."

Can I get a big ol' WTF here? With a heaping side serving of "Why am I your customer again?"

It makes me wish I had the room to raise my own chickens.

So, consider this your consumer wake up call for the week. I, for one, will continue buying my free range eggs from the local guy, for 3 dollars a dozen.

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