YANCHEP and Gingin consumers have until the end of the month to let egg farmers know what they think about the industry.
Australian Eggs, an industry-owned research organisation, has invested in a project to be undertaken by the CSIRO to find out community views on the effects and contributions of the egg industry across areas such as the environment, animal welfare, food security and livelihoods.
The research is designed to gain an understanding of community sentiment, with the ultimate aim to develop a sustainability framework to help ‘future-proof’ the nation’s egg industry.
Australian Eggs managing director Rowan McMonnies said the organisation was prepared for a ‘warts and all’ report to emerge from the research, the biggest consultation program ever undertaken by the industry.
“We are going into this process with our eyes wide open, and a firm belief that our members will be far better placed to develop sustainable futures for their businesses, armed with the information that emerges from this work,” he said.
“We want to get on the front foot with this because if you don’t listen to the public you can very quickly get out of step with community expectations.”
In July last year the Federal Court ordered Snowdale Holdings, which has an egg farm in Beermullah and formerly operated a free range egg farm in Carabooda, to pay $750,000 for making false or misleading representations that its eggs were free range and it was also required to pay $300,000 towards the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s costs.
At the time Australian Competition and Consumer Commission commissioner Mick Keogh said consumers paid a higher price for free range eggs so it was important consumers were purchasing eggs laid by chickens in free range conditions.
Mr Keogh said it was also important that farmers who had invested in farming practices so they could make valid claims their eggs were free range had protection from others making false claims.
A report dated July 9 prepared by Dr Heather Bray from the University of Adelaide for Animal Health Australia to summarise submissions made during a review of the Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines for poultry said it was clear from the overwhelming number and content of submissions that the welfare of poultry in Australia generated considerable public interest.
The report said it was also clear from the submissions that there were significant differences of opinion about how to ensure good welfare within poultry production systems.
“Industry bodies and producers tended to be supporting of the continued use of cages for layer hens, citing decreased mortality and better health than non-caged systems,’’ the report said.
“Some advocated the use of furnished cages in place of conventional cages.
“Welfare and legal groups and the majority of the community members, opposed the use of conventional cages, citing poorer wellbeing due to denial of natural behaviours, and there was limited support for enriched or furnished cages.’’
Mr McMonnies said the CSIRO would survey more than 5000 Australians about the egg industry as well as conducting an open-call for any interested members of the public to have their say.
He said the research project had been developed in the context of a growing appetite among Australians to understand where their food came from and the methods used in its production.
“Eggs are a staple food and we believe that listening to views about our industry is an important part of maintaining community trust,” he said.
He also emphasised the independence of the research and said a lot of care had gone into developing a robust survey mechanism to get the clearest possible picture of community sentiment.
CSIRO senior research scientist Dr Kieren Moffat said changing consumer purchasing habits were affecting the industry and one of the project aimed to better understand the drivers of change.
“We are expecting the results to provide real and compelling data that will help create a sustainable future for the egg industry in Australia,” he said.
Eggs Australia is a member-owned not-for-profit company providing marketing and research & development services for the benefit of Australian egg farmers.
Its website says it role is to work together with the egg industry and the Australian Government to deliver value to industry and the public by investing in programs that increase consumption and ensure industry sustainability.
To participate in the research go to https://research.csiro.au/eggs/
The survey closes on Friday, August 31.
The website includes a link to the egg labelling integrity panel (ELIP) - an advisory service on egg carton labelling – says it is committed to reviewing egg farmers’ labelling artwork and providing feedback based on labelling law, regulation, standards and industry guidelines.