It is estimated that up to 12 million ‘battery’ hens are confined in small cages in the Australian egg producing industry.
Chickens are social animals who need a safe living environment with access to the outdoors, companions, natural materials and enough space to carry out their instinctive behaviours. The ability to naturally move, stretch, flap, nest and perch is crucial for their wellbeing.
Most people understand ‘free-range’ to mean hens can move around outside and engage in natural behaviours. However, the egg industry uses ‘stocking density’ to compare free-range farms and the ability of birds to move around is largely ignored.
Research has shown higher densities increase rates of cannibalism and mortality and that battery hens suffer intensely and continuously for the entire time they are confined in cages.
Whilst stocking densities vary, the RSPCA, the CSIRO, ACCC and consumer group Choice recommend that 1,500 hens per hectare is a good standard for true cruelty-free egg production.
Consumers and advocacy groups are demanding an end to cruel battery cage farming practices and sales of cage farmed eggs are declining, however, many brands of ‘free-range’ eggs may not be as cruelty-free as the community expects.
People who pay extra for free-range eggs deserve to have confidence in what they’re buying. The problem is, there are dozens of different egg labels certified to varying ‘stocking densities’ – the number of hens per hectare (10,000m²). This makes it incredibly confusing for consumers to make an informed choice on their purchase. Consumer advocacy body Choice has listed the free range egg brands that meet the CSIRO’s Model Code of Practice of a maximum 1500 hens per hectare on an outdoor range. Check the eggs in your state here.
“The Greens around Australia are urging that a national legislated standard for free-range eggs be based on a stocking density of no more than 1,500 hens per hectare and a ban on the routine de-beaking of hens.” – Sue Pennicuik MP
In 2017, the federal government announced the Free Range Egg Labelling Information Standard that allows a maximum density of 10,000 hens per hectare (left square), leaving just a square metre for each hen. This standard is completely out of sync with consumers’ expectations and the premium price of free-range products.
In May, 2017, the Greens moved a motion in the federal parliament calling on the Australian Government to review the Free Range Egg Labelling Information Standard to accurately reflect a genuine free-range stocking density of 1,500 hens per hectare, and to ensure that consumers have truth in labelling. The Liberal, National and Labor parties voted against it.
Consumers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to be sure that the eggs that they are buying are genuinely free-range. We need a national standard of no more than 1,500 hens per hectare with guaranteed access to outdoor spaces.
— Sue Pennicuik MP
Millions of egg laying hens spend their lives in small ‘battery’ cages with other hens in huge warehouses with thousands of birds. This is cruel and unnecessary.
Battery cages for egg laying hens are outlawed in the EU and some states of the USA. New Zealand is phasing them out.
Coles home brand eggs are either free range or RSPCA approved barn-laid, and Woolworths has stated it will phase out the sale of battery caged sourced eggs by 2018.
It is time that keeping egg laying hens in battery cages in Victoria is banned.
A campaign of Sue Pennicuik, Member of Parliament for Southern Metropolitan Region.
Authorised by S. Pennicuik, 206 Bay St Brighton VIC 3186.