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Free-range farming is more ______ to operate than cage systems because of the land required to build housing, sheds and pastures.
Why do you think there are three different types of commercial egg farms if all eggs come from a hen? Discuss as a class.
Watch the video to learn about types of egg farms.
Look at the egg cartons your teacher has given you. In small groups identify which type of egg farm is used to produce the eggs. Look at how much they cost, the nutritional information panel, the size of each egg, the imagery used, etc. Fill in the compare and contrast table.
Efficiency: The extent to which time, effort or cost is well used for the intended task or purpose.
Animal Welfare: The treatment of animals to ensure their health and wellbeing.
Environmental Impact: Harmful effects of human activity on the environment.
Cage egg farming is the main system of commercial egg farming accounting for about 51% of commercially produced eggs in Australia. It was first developed after World War II to allow a higher number of eggs to be supplied to consumers. This means that there is higher production and lower costs.
Hens are caged in sheds and are provided with a continuous supply of fresh water and food. Usually 4-5 hens can stand and move around freely in each cage. Cages have a gently sloping floor so that the eggs laid can roll to the front of the cage into an egg tray. This reduces the risk of contamination keeping them clean.
Caged egg farming provides hens with protection from weather, predators, disease and parasites. This keeps the hens healthy and comfortable which means they lay regularly. If a hen were to get sick or injured, this system allows farmers to find and remove them easily. Since hens are housed in smaller numbers than other egg farming systems, there is less social competition between the birds leading to improved welfare. Modern shed systems have controlled-environment technology. This means that farmers can control the lighting, temperature and humidity in the shed at all times.
Barn eggs account for about 10% of Australia’s commercial egg production. Hens are housed in large sheds and usually have access to litter in which they can dust bathe, sleeping (roosting) areas and nesting boxes. The hens are able to move around freely. If eggs are laid on the floor, they may become contaminated.
Since the hens do not leave the sheds, they are protected from predators. The sheds can be bird-proofed which reduces the risk of disease spread by wild birds. Producing eggs in a barn farm is more expensive than producing eggs in a caged farm, however it is cheaper than a free range farm.
Due to the large amount of birds housed in a smaller area, social competition is greater. This is where the more dominant hen attacks the weaker hen causing injury to the bird. Also, due to the number of birds, it can be difficult to manage dust levels, leading to poor air quality.
Free range farming accounts for about 39% of Australia’s commercial egg production. This system is becoming more popular because some consumers prefer to buy eggs produced under more traditional conditions.
Prior to World War II, the egg industry relied mostly on backyard operations similar to the free range system of today. Free range hens have large areas of open ground to roam and exercise. They can also return to weather-proof sheds for roosting (sleeping), laying (nesting) feeding, drinking and protection. The sheds have perches at different levels for sleeping and hens have areas to dust bathe.
Nesting boxes are installed inside the sheds for hens to lay their eggs. The fact that free range hens have such freedom addresses concerns about animal welfare raised by some consumers, however, there is a higher risk of parasites and disease to the hen and contamination of eggs. This system of farming is more expensive to run than cage egg farming. This is because farmers need to buy large areas of land to build housing sheds and pastures. Farmers also need to use more vaccinations to lower the risk of pests and diseases affecting their hens.
Fencing may be needed to help protect the hens from predators and more labour is needed to feed and care for the birds and collect their eggs. This also adds to the cost of farming. Some free range egg farmers keep trained dogs with their hens when they are outside, to protect them from predators. There is a greater impact to the surrounding environment.
Get involved in a class mini debate on the topic:
What egg farming system in Australia has the most benefits to the consumer?
Argue your viewpoint from the perspective of the hen,
the consumer and the farmer.
Cage farming was developed after ______ to allow egg farmers to supply high numbers of eggs to consumers. It also decreased hen mortality and allowed better disease control.
Barn hens are housed in large sheds and usually have access to litter in which they can ____, sleep (roost) and lay eggs in nesting boxes.
Free range hens have large areas of open ground to roam and _____, addressing concerns about animal welfare raised by some consumers.
Free range hens can also return to weatherproof sheds for _____ (sleeping), laying (nesting) feeding, drinking and protection.