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How to be an ethical egg eater
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I'm reading
How to be an ethical egg eater
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
How to be an ethical egg eater
Pass it on
Pass it on
28 April 2016

How to be an ethical egg eater

Deciphering the good eggs from the bad. Because we give a cluck.

Written by Cassie Duncan

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.

This blog post is sponsored by Bank Australia

What does this mean?

You may have heard the recent news about free-range egg certification becoming rather “loose.”  If not, we’ll get you up to speed.

State and federal consumer affairs’ ministers introduced a legally enforceable national information standard for free-range egg production in March, which gives farmers clearance to label their eggs “free-range” should hens have:

  • “Meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range” and;
  • An outdoor stocking density of no more than 10,000 birds per hectare (that’s one hen per square metre).

This is in stark contrast with the CSIRO guidelines, which recommend that the free range label only be allocated to farmers who run no more than 1,500 hens per hectare (that’s a whopping 8,500 hen difference).

The problem with the new free-range egg standard

This vote gives credence to misleading free-range egg labels; egg cartons will have to display stocking densities, but there’s no actual requirement for the chickens to go outside.

Higher stocking densities are also more stressful for the chicken. Hens can partake in some pretty nasty and aggressive behaviours such as pecking, bullying and even cannibalism as they fight it out to maintain their hierarchy in cramped conditions, making way for justifications for widespread beak-trimming and de-beaking (the name says it all).

According to the Free Range Farmers Association, 10,000 hens per hectare is not sustainable or responsible farming. They point to the high levels of ammonia in hen manure which can destroy soil health and leach into the ground, leading to poisoning of waterways.

Get your activist on

As conscious consumers, we want certified farming practices and will happily pay a premium for free-range eggs in the belief that they meet ethical standards. If you’re feeling daunted, fear not—join other like-minded egg eaters and tell the government what you think:

Write to Consumer Affairs Ministers and boycott bad eggs by joining Choice’s Give a Cluck campaign.

How to select the good eggs

Note: The RSPCA Paw of approval can also be found on egg cartons where hens do not have access to the outdoors. To ensure your hens get to roam free you would need to see the words ‘Free-range’ and the paw of approval

Exercise caution

Marketeers have become very creative with terms that aren’t quite free-range, yet sound lovely and confuse consumers. Be cautious of terms such as “free to roam,” “barn raised,” “grain-fed,” “corn-fed,” “happy hens,” “eco-eggs”—none of these indicate a better life for the animal or a free-range environment.

Some brands are also clever at convincing you that their whole egg production is certified organic by using organic grain feed. Make sure that your eggs are both organically farmed and fed to ensure free range. The devil is in the detail friends.

Cage eggs may still be creeping into your world

Many times we’ve heard people holler: “But who would still buy cage eggs!” The truth is many of us are doing it unwittingly.

There are 11 million hens in battery cages in Australia at any given time and these lovely ladies are not protected by the same animal welfare laws as your pets.

Here’s a quick list of common items in your grocery basket or on menus that you might forget to ask about:

  • Cakes, muffins and sweet goods
  • Quiches/frittatas
  • Ice-cream (free-range egg ice cream is HARD to find, however there are a lot of egg-free varieties)
  • Mayonnaise, hollandaise and dressings
  • Schnitzel crumb, stuffings and other batters
  • Shop-bought sandwiches, hamburgers
  • Pasta
  • Egg noodles
  • Pastry: pies, tarts etc

Note: Cafes and restaurants may have free-range eggs on their breakfast menu and cage eggs for items that don’t garner the same attention from patrons, so it’s always worth checking.

So there you have it, everything you need to know about being an ethical egg-eater!

Cassie Duncan

Cassie Duncan is the co-founder of Sustainable Table, which has recently released The Clever Cook eBook, your complete guide to reducing waste, saving money and eating well.

Feature image by Autumn Mott

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