Cracking down on egg labels

HAPPY CHOOKS: Brenda Lipsys checks for eggs every morning and night from her free-range chickens.
HAPPY CHOOKS: Brenda Lipsys checks for eggs every morning and night from her free-range chickens. Vanessa Jarrett

LOCAL free-range egg farmer Brenda Lipsys is very egg-cited about the new information standards for free-range egg cartons.

The new information standards were released under the Australian Consumer Law last week.

It requires eggs labelled as free-range to have been laid by hens with meaningful and regular access to the outdoors and with an outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens or less per hectare.

For Brenda, a small free-range egg farmer, this is a huge win.

"It is excellent news. Before now, free-range could mean anything,” Brenda said.

"People can now look at the labels and decide if it is true free-range or not.”

At the Lipsys's property where Brenda and her husband Anthony and two children run Blue Sky Heritage Eggs, hens are in a true free-range environment.

"Most egg farmers have giant sheds and their hens stay inside all the time and sometimes may go out but there is no grass left,” Brenda said.

At Blue Sky Heritage Eggs, every couple of weeks the chickens are moved to new land for them to graze on fresh grass.

"It is quite an undertaking, you have to measure the next place, mow the edges and move their caravan they lay the eggs in,” Brenda said.

Not only do Brenda's hens adhere to the new access regulations - and they have since the farming operation began in 2015 - but the hens are also well under the stocking rate.

"We are a one-tenth of the stocking density rate they use to call it free range,” Brenda said.

At the moment, Brenda has 250 hens in a quarter-hectare allotment.

"Someone would be able to put 2500 hens in this area and still call it free range,” Brenda said.

"I can't even imagine that amount of hens in such a small space. It's crazy.

"And the grass would be gone in two days.”

Blue Sky Heritage Eggs is also classed as producing free-range pasture eggs, a more specific type of free-range eggs.

"It means the hens are out on fresh pasture - they can't stay in a shed if they want to,” Brenda said.

"They are raised on pasture and are on fresh pasture all the time.”

She said the free-range pasture-raised eggs also provided more nutritional benefits.

"They have oodles more vitamin A and E and omega3, and beta carotene can be seven times more in a pasture egg,” Brenda said.

"All our customers say they taste so much better. My cakes taste so much better and they cook much nicer,” Brenda said.

Brenda looks forward to utilising the new standards and will be adding the stocking rate to her next label order.

"Little guys like us welcome it because we are doing the right thing,” she said.

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