In a bold move supporting humane food production, the South Melbourne Market, together with their traders, will ban the sale of all caged eggs by introducing the “We Care about the Chicken and the Egg” campaign.
From December 1st 2014, South Melbourne Market traders will not sell eggs that have been sourced from hens housed in cages (this includes any eggs used in restaurants and cafés).
Additionally, traders will be required to clearly label ‘bird densities’ as well as identify products as barn-laid, free-range or organic. Customers will therefore be informed to make their purchase decision based on price; category including barn-laid, free-range and organic; and hen stocking densities. While the concept of ‘bird density’ may yet be unknown to some shoppers, it has been identified by the Market as one of the ways to convey to customers the potential quality of free-range systems.
In the absence of national labelling standards for cage free eggs, there exists a suite of criteria and certification schemes which aim to promote products that support the humane treatment of animals. The maximum number of birds allowed in outdoor spaces can therefore differ greatly between the various cage-free egg guidelines.
The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry is a voluntary national guide to the poultry industry, and designates a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare for free-range layer hens. The Free Range Farmer’s Association (Victoria) stipulates 750 birds per hectare, while the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme states between 1,500 and 2,500 birds per hectare for fixed and rotational farming methods respectively. The maximum limit adopted by some large supermarkets for their own brand of ‘free-range’ eggs is 10,000 birds per hectare.
Hope Bertram, Marketing Manager of Humane Food at RSPCA Australia has liaised with the Market regarding their campaign.
“RSPCA Australia applauds South Melbourne Market on its latest commitment to animal welfare. Consumers at the markets’ cafes and restaurants can now be confident the meals they order contain cage-free eggs. Alongside this, grocery shoppers will be happy to see only cartons of cage-free eggs on shop shelves. This decision by the markets’ management and Port Phillip Council shows great leadership and acknowledges the growing community demand to get Australian hens out of cages once and for all”, says Ms Bertram.
Market Manager, Ross Williamson, said “It’s important to us at South Melbourne Market to be committed to animal welfare principles. Our discerning shoppers want to make informed purchasing decisions and be offered clear and consistent labelling.
We are proud to be leading the way in what, we believe, should be the ethical standard for all egg sellers nationwide”.
The campaign follows other key labelling projects at the Market including the review of ‘country of origin’ labelling, and the auditing of organic and free-range claims on other produce.
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