The Australian Egg Corporation Ltd (AECL) is going forward with plans to set up free-range farms that comprise 20,000 birds a hectare, while some free-range critics are calling for limiting the free-range appellation to 1,500 birds or fewer.
The AECL insists however, based on its own research and market analysis, that 20,000 is do-able, and does not impact the hens. To this end, the AECL has released a video depicting 10,000 hens on half a hectare of land, to illustrate their well-being.
At issue is the ‘free range’ appellation and what does it convey to customers. Souh Australian free range producers have recently created labelling that adds medium density (1500—5000 per ha) and high density free range (5000—10000 per ha) categories, increasing the confusion.
Legislation in Queensland defines free range as 1500 birds per hectare, and in New South Wales the Green party wants to restrict the term to 750 birds per hectare by 2015. Industry practise allows higher chicken densities, if pasture rotation is undertaken.