Though I admit it didn't take long to work it out for myself. 10,000 chickens per hectare is one per square metre.
Which makes it easier to see how loose the definition of free range in their regulations is.
It’s often said that you can’t fight City Hall: the concentration of power and politics makes even the most open of political systems fight change tooth and nail. You have to work within the system, it’s said, or the system will fight you - and win. That’s a story the system puts out about itself - far better for all concerned …
Just as bad over here (UK). The birds only need to have 'access' to the outdoors to count as free range. That could just be a small door the birds never use.
Not sure about density per hectare, but it works out at about 1 bird per area the size of A4 paper.
There is talk of increasing the density allowed - EU wants to harmonise which just means bringing everyone down to the lowest standard across the EU.
Then the NFU starts talking about 'low carbon farming'. That's just means intensive as it needs less energy to keep lots of animals in a smaller area.
matchbx, I admire your commitment to imperial measures; but converting Hectares to sq ft, doing the division by 10,000, and then approximating the sq ft result back to sq m. is rather unnecessary; 1 hectare is *by definition* 10,000 sq m, so 10,000 chook/hectare is EXACTLY 1 chook/sq m.
Okay I admit I googled it briefly AND i just took what Google told me, but according to EU regs (and I think UK is still in the EU) there are regulations for the roosting space and state, and then also:
In addition to these requirements, free-range systems must also provide the following:
One hectare of outdoor range for every 2,500 hens (equivalent to 4 m2 per hen; at least 2.5 m2 per hen must be available at any one time if rotation of the outdoor range is practiced)
Continuous access during the day to this open-air range, which must be “mainly covered with vegetation”
Several popholes extending along the entire length of the building, providing at least 2 m of opening for every 1,000 hens.
That is not the trick.
The trick is to put some sprinklers in the "free range" portion. The chickins do not like rain, so while "legally" free range, they stay inside and fatten up (or egg lay at caged hen rate).
So on paper (and on your app), you can have a chickin per whatever number of square meters you want. In reality, they are all sitting inside the shed at near-caged-hen density.
I was talking to the farmer who supplies my eggs (extra large and not really wanted by the supermarkets) and he found that going free frange actually increases the number of eggs laid (and their working life) by his hens. his birds are let out in the morning. If the weather is good the come out. If it is not then the stay inside and keep warm. Sensible birds them hens. A cold wet chicken is no use to him or anyone.
Even if the birds never go outside, they are free to roam around inside. They have to have purches at different heights. That life must be better than caged layers (IMHO).
they stay inside and fatten up (or egg lay at caged hen rate).
The number of eggs per bird is lower; the number of eggs per dollar spent on infrastructure/management/feed is higher. I have some data from back in the 1950s when battery chooks were a new innovation and barn/free-range were the usual. Maximum yield per bird was from free-range housed in coops holding ~20-24 birds IIRC. The relevant data is on paper in an archive box somewhere so difficult to access. The book I photocopied had a picture of rows of these coops spaced sufficiently far apart that a tractor and trailer could be driven between rows for egg collection and putting out feed. Egg laying rates were ~300/bird, or nearly double what was usual before WWII.
I wish we had something like this in both countries I live in. On the other hand, in one place I get my eggs (mostly) from a local farmer. The chickens are free roaming, even into the forest, and when passing on my bike I have to take care to avoid them. Pretty hard to measure density in that case...
Icon because we have no happy chicken ;)
You know, once we were mocking "duh, you know, there is an app for that" - and now there are some that are actually helpful.
Here's a perfect example to test it on: Martin Lews (moneysavingexpert.com) ripping George Osborne apart because Gideon stole the title "Living Wage" and redefined it to be something which *isn't* the Living Wage...
"Free Range" is simply an arbitrary definition of no real meaning. There's far more to poultry raising than square meters per bird, though it is a good indicator as to how much the farmer cares about the flock; more space, clearly more willing to take special care despite the cost.
I like the idea of an app allowing consumers to see whether the mark up "Free Range" excuses is actually justified, so long as the data it presents is a full picture (it wasn't clear from the article that this one does. Let's assume that it does). A farmer giving the birds lots of room might be tempted to take short cuts elsewhere if "space per bird" becomes the only market driver consumers pay attention to. We don't want consumers to have misguided eggspectations about what makes a quality ovum.
There's "free range" - e.g. one bird per square meter ore even one per 100 square meters - and then there is free range, where the birds really do roam free and you only round them up at night to keep the coyotes from eating them. I grew up with the latter and the difference in eggs and meat between true free range birds, who only supplement their diet with chicken feed and birds that can go outside if they want but don't because because they have no reason to do so, and have effectively no access to a natural diet (plants, seeds, grubs, bugs, and even mice) is the difference between day and night that vast majority of so-called "free range" eggs I have had don't measure up. One guarantee that a chicken is not "free range" except perhaps in the area it can move in is the assertion that the bird was fed a "pure vegetarian diet." Chickens are not vegetarians, and "range" means much more than available space to move in.
Indeed there is a difference.. a tasty one. "Free Range" seems a bit more liberal the ubiquitous "Organic" that I'm seeing here in the States. I'm not sure there really is a thing like "Free Range" or "Organic" in commercial farming anymore.
I have bought things from a local organic farmer (veggies, pig, cow, etc.) and there's a world of difference between his stuff and the grocers. The problem is, word of mouth... When the sign goes up in the morning for the "harvest of the day", one had better get there early. Beef and pig is under a contract.
The big difference I've noticed is that the yolks are much more yellow in properly free range eggs. They'll actually stain your fingers if you're a messy eater.
That said, my mum's chooks do have a fence around them, but that's to stop them scratching up all the veggies (and to keep neighbourhood dogs away).
The big difference I've noticed is that the yolks are much more yellow in properly free range eggs.
Unfortunately, cage egg producers can sell you eggs with yolks of any desired shade of yellow. They just add a commercially available dye to the chickens' diet. The yellow of free-range eggs is due to vitamin A and analogues in green feed.
I approved of that the first time I heard him say it - and I still approve of it.
And that is something that could actually be made legal. Any donation of above a certain amount and on goes a sticker with the name of the donor (or the org, whichever is paying).
I think that should be mandatory in any country that boasts of being democratic.
I've not bought shop bought eggs for a long time. I have friends that own a farm, yes they are little more expensive (£2 per dozen), not cleaned like shop eggs and vary in size from small to dinosaur but I can highly recommend them. You also don't need a use by date if you have a bowl of water.
I like the idea of this app but how do you confirm it's accuracy? A farmer could put his chickens in a field when they come and check then put them back in cages when they leave. The same goes for anything it's applied to.
I'd rather cut the middlemen -chickens, in this case- and go straight for an app to evaluate whether politicians are too 'free ranging' (;-), as the article suggests. This is potentially game changing!
Kudos to Mr. Weiley for the idea and the app, and thanks to Mark and Elreg for bringing this to our attention.
"CluckAR is only possible in a country full of folks rich enough to afford smartphones and mobile broadband"
Yeah I don't get this sentence either. About the only place that doesn't have smart phone support these days are remote, inhospitable areas or countries mired in civil war or a few places in the American Appalachians.
"[...] voters would have some idea whose agenda they were really promoting."
500,000 Californian voters have signed up for the presidential election primaries by ticking "American Independent". Apparently many of them thought they were expressing no affiliation to any party. In fact they have irrevocably hitched their primary vote to a far right party.
@Mr Chriz: yes, my first thought exactly. Does this work by discovering the producer's details and then comparing with some database somewhere? I don't believe the flock density is actually marked on the packaging - or if it is, the bad guys won't be long in removing it - so this is really only going to be effective until the factory farmers realise what's happening.
Someone will no doubt tell me I am wrong and too cynical...
Volunteers and NGOs gathering this data would be a good start. Land Registries and similar entities hold most of the data needed, plus volunteers' work inspecting and taking pictures of the premises -probably from the outside- would be enough for this app to work, for now.
The real stumbling block will come when 'interested parties' and PR outfits start trying to game the system for their benefit, with 'false reviews' and similar crap. Sigh...
Disclaimer: I'm not Australian, and I don't know if Australian Land Registries allow for this, but I think they can't be too different to other Registries around the world. I might be catastrophically wrong, though. ;-)
"Land Registries and similar entities hold most of the data needed, [...]"
There is not necessarily a correlation between the area of land and whether the chickens have free access to it. Given that it is Australia it could be imagined that there could be an extremely large ranch - with all the chickens confined to a barn.
Yeah, that's why volunteer work would be needed for this. Drones could be used to watch the premises(legally or otherwise;-). Total number of animals could be deduced from the daily production. ...
And if a volunteer/drone takes pictures of the area at 11AM and sees the chicken are separated from that big yard by a double electrified fence, then the 'free-rangeness' rating of the brand can be conveniently adjusted.
You're talking about a similar app for Politicians and you come up with PwnedAR, I could think of something more suitable starts wth F ryhmes with CluckAR, also you can have the ratings superimposed with appelations to the AP name when you view the politician in question, you know things like; lying ...., total ..., complete .... .
One day a small farmer, looking to sell his eggs, hit on the idea of advertising them as "free range eggs". This struck a cord with consumers and soon they were queueing round the block to buy his eggs.
But this upset his neighbour, Mr Factory Farmed Hens. He was jealous and he went to his paid-for politician and said "The term 'free range' is unregulated. The government need to define it and more importantly define who can use it." And the government granted Mr Factory Farmed Hens a well paid place on their newly setup quango where he quickly set about enacting legislation and licensing which effectively allowed him to call his factory hens and the eggs that they produced "free range". As for the small farmer- the new legislation was so restrictive and the new licensing so expensive, he was banned from ever using the term again.
Accurate? Just wait for the lawsuit when the app tells people that Brand A is clucking unhappy, when, in fact, it's clucking cheerful.
This has all of the reliability problems of any aggregation interface combined with an additional set presented by its immediacy.
As for getting involved in politics and showing contributions from businesses to politicians, jeebus.
Nice idea. but I'd imagine this has lawyers uninvolved in Oracle vs Google or Samsung vs Apple thinking that they might not have missed out after all :-|
Accurate? Just wait for the lawsuit when the app tells people that Brand A is clucking unhappy, when, in fact, it's clucking cheerful.
The data the App uses is taken from a report produced by Choice, a consumer protection organisation similar to Which?.
This information is freely available here:
So it won't be the App developers who get sued no matter what.
... when The Git was an organic farmer, his chook-keeping wouldn't have qualified as free range under this new rule. Up until mid-day, the birds were confined to a large open-fronted shed facing the sun and had the laying boxes in the shady rear. The floor was covered with a 6 inch layer of sawdust so the chooks could scratch and dust bathe. Around mid-day, after they had finished laying, they were let out to forage in the sheep paddock. There was also a shelter belt of Canary Island tree lucerne that provided shade and protection when any hawks were in the vicinity. Tree lucerne also sheds high protein seeds constantly from early summer through to early winter. Purchased feed was ad lib wheat and blood'n'bone. I have yet to eat an egg that equals the quality of those we produced back in the 1980s.
When my daughters were young, they kept a couple of pet chickens. One year both chickens died just before Christmas. In order to save their Christmas, I had to embark on a frantic search for two new chickens on Christmas eve. The only place open was the local battery farm, so I went there.
I won't describe what I saw in that place, except to say that it put me off battery eggs for life. I bought the only two hens I could find that still had any feathers on (I think they cost me $10 each).
At first, these animals were terrified of the outdoors, and spent all their time huddled in a corner of the shed. After a couple of weeks they ventured out and I think they had a happy few years of freedom before a fox got them (digging under the buried netting to get into the shed).
At a rough calculation, I could have bought another 39998 of those chickens and still still have legally been "free range" (I have a rather big garden), but I don't think the neighbours would have liked it.
The only place open was the local battery farm, so I went there.
Must have been a while ago; they don't usually allow blow-ins to see them. While security is tight at the egg "farms", it's even tighter where they breed them.
My best friend used to purchase ex-battery hens because they were much cheaper than POL. Yes, it took them quite a while to acclimatise to the real world.
At present in the UK we are giving chickens more and more space whilst, at the the very same time, building houses for humans that are smaller and smaller. Anyone care for a sweepstake as to when the two figures will converge (not including those working for Romanian gang-masters who already live in terrible conditions with 6 square meters or less)?
The article doesn't mention where the app gets its data - where is that publically available?
Also, don't the egg "companies" use eggs produced by many different chicken farms? So how do they arrive at a rating for an egg company? Some kind of composite of the ratings for each chicken farm?
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