Home' The Mt Barker Courier : The Courier - 2016-04-06 Contents PAGE 36 – The Courier Wednesday, April 6, 2016
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Today’s decision puts the interests of
big business ahead of consumers
– Dr Jed Goodfellow
By Elisa Rose
When it comes to eggs, “free-
range” may conjure up images of
contented hens roaming across
But in light of a new national
standard for labelling eggs, Adelaide
Hills Pastured Eggs co-owner Adam
Oaten said that perception couldn’t be
further from the truth.
Ministers agreed on a national
approach to egg labelling last week,
creating a standard that allows eggs
produced at stocking ratios of up to
10,000 hens/ha of accessible outdoor
area to be labelled as “free-range”.
But while SA Consumer and Business
Services minister John Rau said
the national standard would benefit
consumers by reducing confusion,
Mr Oaten said the maximum ratio
outlined under the standard – which
is equivalent to 1sqm/hen – was
“It’s certainly not sustainable,” he
“No-one’s considering the nutrition
of the eggs – it’s an economic decision
not a health decision. “... It’s really no
different to caged or barn-laid eggs.”
Mr Oaten and his partner Stephanie
Grove have 450 hens on their 32ha
property in Bugle Ranges – a density
of 14 hens/ha.
But while they are looking to expand,
Mr Oaten said they would not keep
more than 2000 hens on their property
a density of 62 hens/ha.
Mr Oaten, who referred to his eggs
as “pastured”, said his hens had free
access to around 1000sqm of yard
24-hours a day, weather permitting,
under the protection of a specially-
trained Maremma dog, and were
rotated around the 32ha property over
a 12 month period.
He said the hens were moved every
two days ensuring the pasture had a
chance to regenerate and the birds had
fresh foliage through which to roam
In contrast, Mr Oaten said that
providing 10,000 hens with an outdoor
area of 1ha would not be beneficial to
the hens or the pasture, turning the
area into a “dust-bowl”.
“We start bastardising the product
and we start damaging the pasture if
density gets too high,” he said.
Mr Oaten said he plants more than 25
kinds of grasses and legumes to keep
his hens happy and healthy and was
“saddened and angry” at being “lumped
in the same group as producers with a
stock density of 10,000 per hectare”.
He was also concerned that while the
new standard required hens to have
“meaningful and regular access to an
outdoor range”, it did not specify that
the hens had to spend any amount of
time outdoors, meaning people could
end up paying a premium for eggs that
were almost the same as barn-laid
Under the national standard egg
producers must disclose their stocking
density on the packaging of their eggs,
something that Mr Rau said would
allow consumers to make educated
decisions about the eggs they bought.
“Consumers will know that the eggs
they are buying are from a farm with
say 1000 or 1500 hens/ha or a farm
with 10,000 hens/ha and they can then
make the choice,” he said.
But Mr Oaten said he didn’t think the
additional information would make
Rather he felt there needed to be a
new labelling category for “pastured”
eggs which are produced by chickens
that not only have regular access to
the outdoors but also to plentiful, fresh
“As an egg producer that is premium
quality, I want to distance myself from
free-range,” he said.
“The eggs that I produce certainly are
far superior to a 10,000/ha egg.”
Mr Oaten was joined in his opinion
by RSPCA Australia senior policy
officer Dr Jed Goodfellow who said the
decision did not adequately consider
the birds’ welfare.
“Today’s decision puts the interests of
big business ahead of consumers, with
hen welfare coming a distant third,” he
Adam Oaten’s hens have access to the outdoors 24 hours a day, weather permitting,
and are rotated through his 32ha property ensuring they have regular access to
Bugle Ranges resident and co-owner of Adelaide Hills Pastured Eggs Adam Oaten said 10,000 hens/ha was a “ridiculous” ratio
for free-range eggs.
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