PUBLISHED ON: 30 July 2012
UPDATE 16 Oct 2012: Great news! Following pressure from Animals Australia supporters and other caring members of the community, APIA has withdrawn its application for the proposed 'Free Range Standards' trademark.
This is a significant development for the wellbeing of chickens raised in Australia for meat, but with no national legally enforceable free range standards, choosing alternatives is still a crucial way to ensure that animals don't suffer for your food.
First it was the egg corporation undermining free range standards. Now the big players in the chicken meat industry are looking to cash in on increased demand for free range chicken and turkey meat.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is seeking public comment on an application from the Australian Poultry Industries Association* (APIA) to trademark its proposed 'Free Range Standards' . If approved, these standards would permit chickens to be stocked outdoors at up to 150,000 birds per hectare — 100 times greater than what national guidelines recommend and 30 times higher than European standards allow.
The proposed APIA standard may give birds the opportunity to go outdoors and provides more space than conventional indoor systems, but if stocked at the maximum density APIA is suggesting each chicken would have about the space of an A4 piece of paper in the outdoor range area. To label such chickens as free range would be nothing short of misleading for consumers.
The fact major industry players are recognising the drop in consumer support for factory farming is positive. But any adjustment they make to improve welfare standards needs to be accurately labelled.
* APIA represents Inghams Enterprises, Baiada Poultry, Turi Foods, Cordina Chicken Farms, Golden Cockerel and Hazeldene's Chicken Farms and Red Lea Chickens.
Find out more about the chicken meat industry and how you can help chickens here.