Despite the Model Code capping stocking density at 1,500 hens per hectare, some farms cram in more than 20,000. And some eggs come from flocks of up to 120,000 birds! Is it any wonder when over half of the free-range eggs sold in Australia come from only three producers? They’re Novo, Pace Farm and Manning Valley and are responsible for many brands in the major supermarkets.
There is no legal definition of the term free-range, so corporations can be creative in how it’s applied. Indeed, Coles and Woolworths made up their own standard for home brand eggs—10,000 per hectare. Shonky much!? Consumers, hens and the environment pay a premium for this.
So what can you do? There’s a plethora of animal welfare certification bodies who look at a range of criteria; Humane Choice have set the standards high.
Alternatively, look out for pastured eggs; if you have a concern, simply ask the farmer! The hens are raised all or most of their lives on pasture and moved every few days to enrich the soil; they’re free to dust bathe, scratch and forage, eating worms and grubs. Their quality diet means creamy, rich-tasting yolks and stronger shells for us. Make sure you’re getting truly fresh eggs, as they hold firm when poaching. Look for these brands at farmers’ markets and local independent stores near you. Taste the difference and tell your friends!
Support local farmers and eat delicious fresh food to boot; check our other directories: milk, eggs, pork, fruit and vegetables, garlic, turkeys and chickens.
Contribute: If you know a farm that should be here, email me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com
Glen and Mardie Gray produce 12 Good Eggs on the Murray River, east of Barham. Their girls roam the paddock enjoying the country air, Barham sunshine and shady Red Gums; their food and water is all outside. Electric netting and Maremma dogs keep them safe. They sleep and lay in caravans that are shifted twice weekly.
Anne and Warren Stuckey of Berrima Ridge move their chickens regularly over 50 acres of pasture and olive grove. They sleep in five mobile hen houses, each protected by a Maremma dog.
John and Estelle Joseph’s chickens scratch in the mulch piles, mow the green grass shoots and take luxurious dust baths at Brigadoon. The chickens live in a mobile house that is moved every few days. Their wild diet is supplemented by mixed wholegrain and minerals.
Inspired by Joel Salatin, Fiona and Adam Walmsley began working seven hectares on a former dairy farm, home to Fiona’s parents. Buena Vista Farm in Gerringong produces pastured eggs from 210 laying hens, housed in a mobile chicken caravan.
Ian Littleton 10,000 hens of Clarendon Certified Organic Free Range Egg Farm follow the natural rhythms of a wild hen‘s year; free from artificial light, autumn and winter egg laying is reduced. An electric fence and Maremmas protect them from predators. Hens past their laying prime reside in retirement paddocks.
Kerry Marshall of Cornucopia Bio-dynamic Farm on the Paterson River lets her chickens roam freely throughout the day with nightly sheltering in their mobile homes. Every few days the homes are pulled to fresh pasture for a fresh supply of fresh green pick; supplementary feed is certified organic grain.
Rachel and Matt Fahey put their chickens to work in Dharma Gardens, Heathcote; they contribute with pest control, soil balance and weeding. Besides green pick, their eat organic meal, fruit and vegetable scraps. They’re available from Bendigo WholeFoods and Barrack Reserve farmers’ market.
The Steel family’s Egganic chickens roam chemical-free paddocks at Forest Reefs, near Orange. They’re kept safe from predators by electric fencing and Maremma dogs. They lay and roost in a mobile sheds and eat fresh green feed and certified organic mash. Tip from @UrbanGreenSpace
The Fergusson Family In Dunedoo produce Farmer Browns Pastured Eggs. Pastured hens live entirely unrestricted in an 85 hectare paddock adjoin a large area of protected woodland . The hens lay their eggs by day in mobile sheds and perch there comfortably night. Maremma dogs protect them.
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Graeme and Anne Barwise of Free as a Bird have approximately 300 birds housed in mobile sheds on their Tooradin farm. During daylight hours the birds have full access to lush, green pastures; they can dust bathe and are free to graze naturally. They’re fed chemical-free grains.
Brothers Hugh and David Trevor-Jones are fourth generation farmers at Hayters Hill, a 120 hectare mixed farm just five minutes from Byron Bay. Their 2000 chickens are systematically rotated on pasture with plenty of room to move.
Sam and Prue Pincott’s 2600 hens roost and lay Holbrook Paddock Eggs in portable sheds which are moved onto fresh pasture twice weekly; they’re free to roam the paddock with access to fresh grass, bugs and grubs. Two Maremma dogs protect them from predators, as they’re never locked up.
Mayfield Farm on the Dorrigo Plateau is home to Ian and Sandra’s flock of Plymouth Rock chieckens. They’re free to dust bath, scratch and hunt for grubs and bugs. Supplementary feed is corn, wheat and sunflower seeds with access to shell grit, Calgrit and seaweed meal throughout the day.
Therese and Andre Hearne’s Near River Produce is based on the mid North Coast. A flock of mainly black Australorp hens—with a few Aruacanas—spend their days ranging around the market garden paddock, foraging on the bugs, grubs and grasses, along with an organic grain-based feed in their run.
New England Pastured Eggs is Arron and Kirsty O’Connel, based in Kentucky. Their hens are free to roam and forage on open pasture, they’re housed in moveable sheds, and rotated onto fresh pasture every few days.
Peter and Julie Clinch supply open-range organic eggs from their farm Oaks Organics, located at The Oaks, approximately 70km from Sydney.
Chickens make an important contribution to Old Mill Road BioFarm; they clean out crops, eat bugs, fertilise the ground and provide eggs for the market. They’re contained by an electrified mesh for protection. It also allows Fraser Bayley and Kirsti Wilkinson to give their chickens fresh ground regularly, essential for their wellbeing.
Tim and Tracy Zanker and their three sons of Organic Ways are based in Bowraville. Guarded by Maremma dogs, the chickens scratch around on organic pastures during the day; at night they’re housed in movable coops. Their diet is supplemented with porridge of organic wheat and milk from their dairy cows.
The Cripps Clark family rear 5,000-6,000 laying hens for Organigrow eggs, near Lismore. The hens are protected from predators by shady trees, bird netting, electric fencing and Maremma dogs. They’re housed in movable shelter and have access to green peck supplemented by certified organic vegetarian grains.
The Eggert family produce Oxhill Organic Pasture Ranged Eggs at Redbank Organic Farm in Wauchope. The certified organic farm has 2000 laying hens that are moved every two days to fresh pasture. The hens are fed a fresh porridge mix; the grains are cracked and mixed with organic milk from the on-farm dairy.
Papanui near Merriwa raise open range chickens; they’re not contained by fences or ever locked up. They follow a herd of beef cattle in a planned rotational grazing regime. Each shelter houses 500 hens, protected by Maremma dogs. A commercially produced layer ration supplements their feed. Tip from Carolyn.
Andrew Cameron and the Possum Creek team at Bangalow combine Permaculture, Holistic Management and Polyface farming practices to produce a food system that works with nature. Their 150 hens forage on pasture, pecking at bugs and insects, and dust bathing. They roost in their caravan that is moved regularly.
The Murphy family, of Archerfield Sustainable Farm in Richmond, produce Rock Chic Eggs. Their hens run wild in large paddocks, eating grass and bugs, scratching and rolling in dirt, running, jumping, stretching and flying. The eggs are laid to order avoiding unnecessary waste or use of the soil and grazing areas.
Helen and Dennis Smith have 2,500 hens at their Temora farm located in the Riverina. The hens have sheds with laying boxes, perches, feed (to supplement their range diets) & water. Smith’s Free Range Eggs are collected weighted, packed, marketed and distributed by the Smiths. Tip from @bizzylizzycooks
Michele and Andy Peverill of The Happy Chook Company farm 2000 hens near Parkes. They’re free to roam, and never locked up. Their sheds are lit for 12 or so hours during mid-winter and cooled with fans in summer. Every three months they’e cleaned and the hens moved, for pasture recovery. Tip from @AlisonFairleigh.
Derek and Fiona Smith’s Working with Nature farm is situated near Guyra. Their 1000-1500 hens are fed a grain mix, mineral and protein feed plus any amount of green grass, herbs, fresh shoots and insects the girls find. The sheds are moved around daily. Maremma dogs protect them from foxes, snakes, eagles and hawks.
On 400 acres of farm land in Lietchville, Elliot Fehring’s moveable hen house closely travels the wake of a grazing dairy herd, The chooks feast on grubs, scratching the soil and spread their manure on the pasture, enriching the soil as they go. Two Maremma pups guard the feathery procession from marauding foxes day and night.
At Al Yanna, located at St Arnaud, Catriona and Robert Thoolen teach their layers to scratch, dust bathe, hunt for bugs and sunbake. Many are “rescues”, hens bought from the large commercial growers. They now head up to 500 metres away from their mobile shed, under the watchful eyes of Bella and Peter, their Maremma guard dogs.
The hens of Berrkers Free Range Egg of Goon Nure are free to roam pasture, with access to small huts; these are towed around the farm for fresh pasture.
Brendon and Kate of Daylesford Organics believe that producing food comes with a great deal of responsibility to the consumer, to the environment and to future generations. The eggs are laid by 200 hens that live in mobile sheds, that are moved regularly, guarded from predators by Maremma guard dogs.
Elderslie Organics is a 120ha farm producing organic eggs and milk. Run by the Wallace family they’re located in the town of Ellinbank. The hens lay eggs in old caravans parked around the dairy paddock. Maremma dogs guard the hens and travel everywhere with their allocated vans of hens. No artificial chemicals and fertilisers are used.
Neil and Amanda Beach produce Free Range King Valley Eggs near Moyhu. Their hens forage freely, feeding on insects, native grasses, soft leaves and seeds, with supplementary premium feed. Their mobile sheds are rotated to allow their pasture—free from chemicals, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers—to rejuvenate.
Phil Westwood’s Freeranger Egg Farm at Grantville, near Phillip Island is home to 1,200 hens. They run in flocks of 200 – 300 in separate paddocks; each flock has a mobile roosting shed with laying boxes and is protected by a Maremma dog. The chickens eat a mash of natural grains (no meat meal nor colouring additives).
Gippsland Free Range Eggs in located Glengarry West. The hens are free to roam with Maremma dogs keep them safe from foxes and wedge tail eagles. Their supplementary diet consists of natural grains and seeds.
Tania Murray runs Hens of Hallora in West Gippsland. She has about 300 laying hens in a three acre range area that is fully enclosed by an electrified fox-proof fence. The chickens spend the night roosting in a small shed to protect them from the elements. In the morning they’re free to come and go from the shed as they please.
Family Homestead Genuine Free Range Eggs are produced at Myrniong Hills by the Luketic family. The hens are free to run around outside in the paddock with Maremma dogs for protection; they’re never locked up, not even at night. They’re housed in mobile sheds that are moved on a rotational basis for fresh pasture.
Madelaine’s Eggs are produced by Madelaine Scott at Hollyburton Park. her flock of 1000 layers roam the orchard which provides them with fruit and protection from the elements. In return, the chickens keep the mold and bugs away. Their diet is supplemented by Hollyburton organic layer feed.
Russell Mickle of Milawa Free Range Poultry, in the Ovens Valley, produces Milawa Organic Pasture Eggs. The hens’ pasture diet is supplemented with a high protein vegetarian feed, free from meat and fish meal. They have shelters to protect from extreme temperature and predators. Tip from @essjayeff
Once a film-maker, Dan Green is now a South Gippsland farmer selling Real Free Range Eggs. His flocks are rotated to allow for natural regeneration of the soil. They have 24-hour access to pasture, food, fresh water and shelter. They can dust bathe as they desire, they’re not de-beaked nor fed hormones or any artificial additives.
Taranaki Farm, managed by Ben Falloon and Nina Grundner is situated just north of Melbourne. They aim to establish an open Australian farm modeled on Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. Their chickens are pastured, with a regime of twice weekly egg mobile moves to keep up with the cattle.
Tom’s Paddock eggs are produced by Sally and Tom Abbotsmith Youl of Graceburn Farm, located at Glenburn. Their chickens have unlimited access to fresh green forage, with a diet of native grasses, clover, rye grass, grubs and bugs. They’re rotated twice weekly to fresh pasture, with an electric fence for protection.
Stephen Clancy, a 6th generation farmer, his wife Maureen, son and daughter-in-law are the team behind Grandma’s Eggs. Their chickens are genuine free range with portable housing and with protection by two Maremma dogs. The 2000 or so chickens are free to roam outside 24 hours a day.
Nick Weber and Anne McGrath of Majura Valley Free Range run 2000 chickens to produce biodynamic eggs to local stores, restaurants and from the farm gate. The chicken sheds are moved to different parts of the paddock weekly; this means their soils are fertilised with nitrogen-rich manure.
The hens of Mulloon Creek Natural Farms, east of Canberra, forage on pasture grasses and legumes supplemented by mixed organic grains, and free fed on shell grit and a protein supplement. Their eggmobile is moved twice weekly, with each flock protected by two Maremma dogs.Tip from Carolyn.
Bio-dynamic Mungalli Creek Dairy, north of Townsville now produces free-range organic eggs. Robert Watson has 4000 cross-bred bond brown chickens. Their coops are built on skids so they can be moved around the farm (following the dairy cows) on to fresh pastures. Tip from PinkFarm.
Cris and Lee-Anne Geri of Rawganix Farm in Tansey use movable pens for their chickens, moved regularly to new pasture. As they farm without chemicals and antibiotics, they deal with disease and injury by quarantining, using natural remedies and culling when necessary. Tip from @BTHOfarmgirl
Silver Dale Eggs was a sideline venture of Rob and Sandra Waterson to improve their pasture. The chickens are free to roam all day; they’re never confined but have access to shelter, perches, grain and nests. Their mobile houses are regularly moved so they always have access to fresh grass. Tip from @rolley
Richard & Terressa Langford run Fleurieu Free Range Eggs. Their hens are free to range all day and night, every day of the year. Maremma dogs protect them hens from predators. They eat a balanced diet of cracked grains, vegetable meals, vitamins, minerals and fresh greens make for a nutritious and tasty egg.
Tom and Fiona Fryar run 50,000 hens at Kangaroo Island, protected by Maremma dogs. The fully beaked hens peck and scratch at seeds, insects and grubs; their feed is supplemented by a mixture of grains produced on the farm. Each mobile poultry shed, providing 1,000 hens with shelter, are moved for fresh pasture.
Gumview Free Range Eggs is based on the Yorke Peninsula; they produce, package and deliver all their eggs direct from the farm.
Graham and Kathy Barrett of Katham Springs have been producing Demeter certified eggs since 1999. Their chickens live in mobile sheds that are moved around small paddocks regularly; they’re guarded by Maremma dogs.
Edward and Margaret Valentine of Cackleberries Eggs hens have mobile homes for regular rotation; this is where they’re housed overnight, with sunrise release. Bio-dynamic pastures, certified grains and grain by-product form their diet. Two Maremma dogs protect them from predators.
Merri Bee Organic farm is a permaculture that’s been developing slowly for 25 years on the banks of the Blackwood in Nannup. It’s the home of Stewart Seesink, Bee Winfield and their son Lee.
ABC Gippsland: Jenni Henderson, Free range on show for World Egg Day, 5 October, 2013.
Brisbane Times: Amy Remeikis, ‘Free range eggs’ definition scrambled, 29 July, 2013.
The Age: Melissa Fyfe and Royce Millar, Coles sets its own squeezier standard, March 4, 2013.
ABC News: ACCC rejects free range definition, November 2, 2012
Weekly Times: Egg supplier fined over ‘free range’ claims, September 5, 2012
ABC News: Free range definition to rise, April 16, 2012
Lexicon of Sustainability: This is the Story of An Egg, November, 2011
ABC 7.30: Truth in labelling bill ruffles feathers, October 7, 2011
Weekly Times Now, Leslie White: Cracks in free-range egg debate, October 5, 2011
Weekly Times, Leslie White: Egg industry cracks, October 6, 2008
ABC Radio National: Produced by Helen Thomas: Free Range Fiddle, 26 June 2005
cc photo by Christy McDonald
Contribute: If you know a farm that should be here, email me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com