HAPPY ‘FREE RANGE’ CHRISTMAS!
Perhaps the only thing to make a meat-eater more anxious than having a vegan to Christmas dinner is having the ethical omnivore.
“Is that a free-range turkey?” “Is this ham from a happy pig?” “I only eat free-range pudding.” At least with a vegan there’s a clear line – no animal products allowed on the plate.
But ethical omnivorism is a minefield – ‘free range’ has joined ‘natural’ in the meaningless stakes, especially with poultry, where most of the certification standards are generous, though not to the animals.
Meat chickens certified ‘free range’ by either the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association (FREPA) or the RSPCA can have up to 28kg of live birds per square metre. Given the average meat chook weighs less than 2kg, that’s going to be more than 14 chooks per square metre. According to Lilydale’s website, they offer double that space – which is still seven or more chooks per square metre.
While some may not be bothered by that stocking density, surely it’s a stretch to call it ‘free range’?
Egg chooks, of course, are often kept in cages their whole lives, but those certified free range must have some room to move around, though I’d argue that the RSPCA standard of 9 chooks per square metre is also really pushing the notion of ‘free range’.
So what eggs to buy? For the majority of Australians who live in cities and don’t have access to local producers like we do in the country, I’d say if you have room for chooks in your yard, raise some.
Failing that, look for eggs with the Humane Choice certification, which is the best one I’ve been able to find. RSPCA and FREPA, as I said, are not what I’d call free range.
For pigs, you’d think ‘free range’ would be quite straightforward, and it was, really, until ‘bred free range’ entered the market.
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