THE Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL) has released the results of national research which show that more than 80 per cent of consumers across the nation are satisfied with the recommended freerange-stocking density of 20,000 hens per hectare, equivalent to two hens per square metre.
The qualitative, independent research was undertaken between October 2011 and May across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, among freerange-egg shoppers.
The purpose of the research was to understand consumer attitudes towards freerange-egg production and, specifically, to gauge reactions to a proposed maximum stocking density cap of two hens per square metre.
The research findings were particularly relevant, as they measured responses to real-life footage of hens on-farm in a two-hens-per-square-metre environment.
After viewing video footage of a freerange farm stocked at this density, more than 80 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the maximum stocking density ratio of two hens per square metre.
Moreover, respondents said the hens in the video footage were “well-fed and fully feathered”, that “they can scratch around” and “I’d be happy if I knew my eggs were coming from there”.
Others said the hens are “moving freely, naturally, no arguments” and “stalking around as chickens do – flying, pecking, scratching, lively”.
Others said that “there’s a lot of space there” and “they are moving freely”.
After it was explained to respondents that AECL wishes to introduce a cap of no more than two hens per square metre, there was praise for AECL taking the initiative.
Responses included, “they’re doing something that needs to be done” and “they (AECL) are taking a responsible approach to tackling an issue that needs to be addressed”.
There is no cap on stocking densities.
The egg industry is catering to a highly varied market characterised by different demographics, demands, social needs, opportunities and abilities to afford certain foods.
We want to provide Australians with affordable freerange eggs long into the future.
AECL’s new standard will allow egg farmers stocking at 750 hens, 1500 hens per hectare, and those stocking up to two hens per square metre.
Those stocking below this level are strongly encouraged to market that point of difference on their egg cartons and to their customers.
AECL’s findings are backed up by a Choice survey, which showed that 65 per cent of respondents did not know what an appropriate level of stocking density was.
In regards to the Choice consumer research, we think it’s a good thing that Choice is engaging in this debate. Its findings support our contention that, unless consumers are shown what a two-hens-per-square-metre density is like in real life, they can’t contextualise it, but when they do, they are satisfied that it is an appropriate maximum density ratio.
We need to educate people about why AECL’s position is responsible and focused on hen welfare, because clearly some people are using hysteria in an attempt to influence consumers for their own financial interest.
The research findings and video footage can be viewed at www.aecl.org
AusTralian Egg Corporation Limited