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FREE range egg and chicken guide

Useful tables to refer to when buying chicken and eggs

Comparison table for conventional, free range and organic meat chickens

You will notice in this chart, that although free range and organic chicken must have access to the outdoors, they are still slaughtered when they are just 1-3 months old even though they would naturally live until they were about 7 years old.

chicken meat sold as: conventional free range certified organic
housed in barns yes yes yes
access to outdoor forage areas no yes, required after 21 days of age yes, required after 10 days of age (explicit requirement regarding access to green vegetation)
age at slaughter 35-55 days 35-55 days 65-80 days
given growth hormones no no no
given antibiotics yes no (if antibiotics required, can no longer be sold as free range) no (if antibiotics required, can no longer be sold as organic)
feed has to come from organic production (no chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides used) no no yes
use of genetically modified products in feed yes, to a limited extent yes, to a limited extent no
What to look for when buying free range eggs

To help with your purchasing decision, please see the table below which lists various organisations that certify free range egg producers and the standards that they set out (the information within the table has been verified by each of the certification bodies included).

  Australian Egg Corporation Assured # #
criteria for birds to be called free range birds are housed in sheds and have access to an outdoor range during daylight hours, once fully feathered (around 5-6 weeks) all birds must have free access to paddocks during the day once fully feathered (around 5-6 weeks old) birds are kept under natural conditions and have access to an open range or suitably fenced managed area
ease of access to outdoors (during daylight hours) through minimum openings of 35cm(h) x 40cm(w). Minimum of 5 openings per 1,000 birds birds must be allowed free movement and access to paddocks during each day, for a minimum of 8 hours for all birds
stocking density per shed (no. of birds per square metre) 11-14 maximum of 5, flock numbers shall not exceed 2,500 birds per shed maximum of 5, the number of birds per shed should not exceed 1,500 without consulting the certifier
stocking density per outdoor paddock (no. of birds per hectare) maximum 1,500 (voluntary - farms can exceed this stocking density and still be classified free range) maximum 1,500 maximum 1,000
allows beak trimming yes no no
pasture cover - essential to maintain birds health and minimise environmental impact no specifications required pasture cover should not fall below 40% and consideration must be given to the soil's health, production capacity, structure and nutrient balance all birds must have access to green pasture
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FREPA
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Free Range Farmers Association Inc.
*criteria for birds to be called free range birds must have access to the range for a minimum of 8 hours per day once they are reasonably feathered when fully feathered (around 5-6 weeks old) birds must have easy access to an outdoor range during daylight hours birds are kept under natural conditions, either in an open range or suitably fenced managed areas
ease of access to outdoors (during daylight hours) birds must have easy access to individual openings (popholes), communal popholes or full opening doors birds must have easy access to an outdoor area during daylight hours un-restricted
stocking density per shed (no. of birds per square metre) maximum of 9 between 6-10 birds per square metre depending on the total no. of birds,no more than 4,000 birds per shed maximum of 7, no more than 1,000 birds per shed
stocking density per outdoor paddock (no. of birds per hectare) maximum 1,500 or 2,500 if the outdoor range is rotated maximum 750 maximum 750
allows beak trimming yes, upon veterinary advice. Only in the first 10 days of life if other measures fail to control cannibalism yes no
pasture cover - essential to maintain birds health and minimise environmental impact range must be well maintained with enough edible vegetation and shade/shelter access to pasture with mixed vegetation adequate natural ground cover
* The RSPCA does not require that farms provide hens with access to an outdoor range area to receive the RSPCA paw of approval. Indoor egg farms are guided by a different set of RSPCA standards and can still receive the paw of approval.
 
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