September 30, 2011
Australian Egg Corporation criticised on free-range issue
Australia's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has criticised the Australian Egg Corporation's bid to allow 20,000 birds a hectare to be considered "free-range".
Supermarket giant Coles has repeated it will not allow eggs or meat farmed in such a way to be labelled "free-range" under its own brands, while Woolworths says it is "concerned".
But the AEC says it has a "social responsibility" to feed "a growing population with an affordable source of protein".
RSPCA scientific officer Melina Tensen said allowing 20,000 birds a hectare or two for every square metre - and calling them "free-range" would be "a backward step for animal welfare".
Free-range farmer groups allow stocking rates of between 750 and 1500 hens a hectare.
"The RSPCA is concerned about the impact that a stocking density of up to 20,000 birds per hectare is likely to have on the quality of the range," Tensen said.
A Coles spokesman said 20,000 hens a hectare was "too high".
However, Coles brand egg suppliers will be able to stock at 10,000 - 13 times higher than the Free Range Farmers Association does.