Happy hens produce eggs with Choice tick of approval

Silverdale chickens: Dan Carney shows how Silverdale free range chickens live
Silverdale chickens: Dan Carney shows how Silverdale free range chickens live

CALLIOPE'S Silver Dale Eggs has been given a tick of approval by consumer magazine Choice.

Choice last month put together a story examining whether free range eggs met ethical standards.

The Choice team found a long list of brands which didn't meet the Model Code of Practice.

>> Chooks taste freedom at new home in Calliope

The code says there should be a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare for eggs to be labelled free range.

But many brands kept as many as 10,000 chooks per hectare.

Silver Dale Eggs exceeded the standard set by the code, with just 500 hens per hectare.

Property manager Dan Carney said 500 hens per hectare was a sustainable amount for the farm.

He said giving the flock fresh air and room to roam rather than crowding in more birds benefited more than just the chooks and the consumers.

"It works well with our pasture recovering and our rotations," he said.

"Our hens are in rotation with our cattle ... We viewed the hens' manure as a resource that was valuable for our pasture, whereas most poultry farmers think of it as a waste product."

Under Queensland law, farms with up to 10,000 hens per hectare can be considered free range.

But the code of ethics say there should be a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare for eggs to be labelled free range.

In the recent investigation, Choice magazine found 24 farmers did not meet the ethical standards and 14 were still undeclared.

"I can't see the Egg Corporation or any government turning around and saying, 'right it's all 1500 hens per hectare for free range'," Mr Carney said.

"Since the larger companies know that consumers are happy to pay extra for free range, they've jumped on board with it, and basically given free range a bad name."

Mr Carney said the only way for shoppers to know if eggs were truly free range was to contact the brand.

Half of Silver Dale's supply goes into the central Queensland market and the other half goes to south-east Queensland.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The light yellow yolk on Silver Dale eggs has been because of the cooler weather. The chickens are eating less grass, which means the yolk contains less omega 3. Dan Carney said larger companies often used an artificial colouring to give their yolks a darker colour.
  • The size of an egg varies as the chicken gets older. Mr Carney said when a flock started to lay, the eggs might be 50g. As they age towards the end of their productive life they'll lay more of the jumbo sized eggs.
  • White chickens lay white eggs, black chickens lay a blue-purple egg and red hens lay brown eggs.