Life on the land in Australia

Free-range egg shortage in Australia set to last two months or more Videos & pics here.

Australia is set to suffer through an egg shortage for the next two months, as producers scramble to meet new free-range laws, with Melbourne and Sydney the worst-hit cities.

Supermarket shelves along the east coast that would usually stock eggs are bare, with many carrying large apology notices.

Australian egg consumption is up 3-4 per cent, which normally would be great news for farmers. But uncertainty around new free-range laws means the industry isn’t willing to invest in new capacity to meet the demand.

‘Free range eggs’ definition reached.Describing ‘free range’ above & below videos.

Australia’s consumer affairs ministers will adopt a legally binding standard with a definition of what constitutes a free range egg.

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Bare shelves at a supermarket in Melbourne's CBD image www.ozrural.com.au

Bare shelves at a supermarket in Melbourne’s CBD. Photo: Liam Mannix

In March, the federal government introduced a legal definition of “free-range”, which limits producers to one chicken per square metre and requires chickens to have “meaningful and regular access” to the outdoors.

Other rules, including the size and design of barns, are still being worked on. Until they are finalised, farmers aren’t building new barns to house more hens to meet the growing demand.

Free-range hens lay less frequently in the winter months, exacerbating the problem. Consumers can expect this problem to only get worse in the future if current national trends toward free-range don’t change.

The shortage only affects free-range eggs, with cage-egg production still at normal levels. But the shortage of free-range eggs is driving consumers to buy cage-eggs, leaving supermarket shelves bare.

Melbourne and Sydney are the worst-hit cities, because Victoria and NSW are home to most of Australia’s free-range egg producers, Egg Farmers Australia says.

Three things causing the egg shortage:

1. Australians are eating more eggs

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Eggs are a staple on Australian brunch menus. Photo: Ed Alcock


National egg consumption is up by between 3.5 to 4 per cent annually, on the back of high beef prices which are encouraging people to switch proteins.

The new scientific consensus about links between eating eggs and better health outcomes is also driving the increase in consumption, Egg Farmers Australia says.

In addition, Australians are eating more free-range eggs – 48 per cent of eggs sold in Australia are labelled free-range, according to Egg Farmers Australia. If that trend continues, more eggs are going to be laid outdoors,  resulting in a bigger supply-drop during winter every year.

2. Shorter, darker winter days cause hens to lay fewer eggs

chooks-in-cubicles image www.ozrural.com.au

This is a hormonal cycle that hits industry production in winter every year.

It has been exacerbated this year because there are now more free-range producers than cage-egg producers.

Hens that live outside are more affected by seasonal changes, whereas hens in cages can be manipulated to lay all the time using artificial light.

3. Investment in new hatcheries is down

free-range-hens-in-paddock image www.ozrural.com.au

The government established a new national definition of “free range” in March, and is currently working to finalise full standards for the industry.

The standard’s main requirement is for there to be no more than 10,000 hens per hectare. Producers can stock more, but they won’t be able to call their eggs free-range.

But the standard, when finished, is going to contain a lot of other requirements for farmers, including how big the doors in their barns must be, to allow chickens to get out. Some farmers have faced criticism in the past for giving hens access to the outdoors, but making barn doors so small that only a small number can actually get outside.

Normally, if there was a significant spike in egg demand, producers would be quickly investing in new hatcheries to cater to increased egg appetites. But the uncertainty about just what is going to be in the standard means most producers are holding off.

At the same time, many existing producers are having to spend time and money modifying existing farms to meet what they expect the new standards to be, and that’s affecting production as well.

John Coward, spokesman for Egg Farmers Australia, told Fairfax Media he expected supply to meet demand in about two months.

Will I ever be able to purchase my vegetarian-fed-Omega-3-free-range-macro-organic-family-eggs ever again? Brunch just isn’t the same!

brunch-egg-meal image www.ozrural.com.au

Actually, it’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal. Mr Coward says it will take a couple of months before investment starts kicking in. The seasonal change to spring will also lead to a significant spike in egg production, as the hens start to get … cracking.


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Henry Sapiecha
June 8th, 2016
Topic: Birds, POULTRY HENS EGGS, VIDEOS AUDIOS Tags: , , , , ,

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