"Many consumers are paying extra assuming hens are staying in the equivalent of a comfortable bed and breakfast, but instead they're stuck in a crowded backpacker hostel." - Matt Levey, CHOICE director of campaigns and communications.
At Real Eggs, we reckon our hens are staying in the equivalent of one of those quirky eco-luxe resorts that you might see in the pages of Green Magazine. Big, timber-framed windows to welcome in the fresh air, a supply of local spring water in the fridge that’s replenished daily, one of those super-food nourish bowls for lunch every day and an over-sized bed that’s given you the best night’s sleep in ages.
One of the key things that’s positively different about Real Eggs is the amount and quality of space that our hens have.
HOW MUCH SPACE?
Here’s a quick recap on the legal state-of-play. In April 2017, the Australian government confirmed new standards for free range egg labelling. It determined that 10,000 chooks per hectare was right. This falls well short of the CSIRO’s ‘Model Code of Practice’ (recommended back in 2002), which the RSPCA and The Humane Society also subscribe to - that 1,500 per hectare is the right thing to do.
In real terms, a hectare measures about half the size of the MCG - that’s 10,000 chooks massed into 50% of the ‘G - each hen is given about as much space to peck around on as a standard bath towel.
That’s not great.
1,500 per hectare is about 40 chooks given free reign on one tennis court.
That’s pretty good.
At Real Eggs, we do better. We have less than 8 chooks per hectare. That’s like two hens living it up in The Bachelorette’s mansion complete with countless bedrooms, three bathrooms, multiple living zones, tennis court, an Olympic-sized pool and its perfectly manicured, candle-hungry grounds.
HOW MUCH QUALITY?
These new government guidelines just focus on the outdoor space that hens must have "regular and meaningful" access to. What do we know about the condition and size of their indoor home? How often can they get out and scratch about? Do they even want to go out, or are they so conditioned that an overcrowded shed is where they think their life is at? What is the quality and breadth of their food supply?
The ‘Model Code’ states that free range eggs are housed in sheds and have access to an outdoor range during daylight hours for a minimum of eight hours per day, with shaded areas and shelter from rain and wind.
At Real Eggs, we do better. Our hens roam outside all day, and retire to custom-made campers at night. Every three days, these campers are moved to fresh new grasses on open pastures and on hot days they are moved under trees for extra shade. They have an abundant daily supply of fresh water and grains, plus fresh grasses of rye, phalaris, coxfort and lucerne, and as many worms and insects as they can uncover. Our hens are a critical part of our whole farming practice - they’re not just there for their eggs. By scratching the pasture they assist with the soil aeration, breaking down their own organic matter to aid the soils’ recovery and rejuvenation.
It’s way more than free range. We call it open range. Pasture-raised.
The Choice 2014 Free Range Egg Survey showed that only 2% of free range egg buyers believe that 10,000 is an acceptable stocking density. While 46% believe that 1,500 is a reasonable stocking density for free range eggs. We’re proud to abide by our 8-hen per hectare rule - the ultimate range.