7 April 2016
Isolated negligence of one farmer does not reflect Colony farming practice
Allegations by SAFE that the Colony cage farming system causes increased mortality and poor welfare among layer hens is being strongly rejected by the Egg Industry.
The Egg Producer Federation (EPF) has been working with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to investigate claims made by SAFE about one of its member farms. SAFE broke into a member farm to obtain footage that the Industry said is an unacceptable, but isolated discovery.
“The welfare of the birds is our first priority, so this footage is most definitely disturbing. Investigations have shown this is the negligence of one farm, in an isolated incident that shows poor practice around cage checking and clearing. It does not reflect the standards of animal welfare prevalent across colony cage farming observed by the rest of the industry, nor across the rest of that particular farm’s colony cages,” said Michael Brooks, Executive Director of the Egg Producer Federation.
Kerry Mulqueen, Veterinarian for EPF, noted the severe feather loss featured in the footage was most likely caused by other factors. “There is no way excessive feather loss is caused by a colony cage environment. If anything, colony farming protects feather loss, whereas these birds selected by SAFE look to be close to the end of their laying cycle. That in itself creates feather loss, but these particular birds appear to have an underlying condition as they are not typical of the rest of the flock on this farm.”
Michael Brooks says colony farming has a very low level of mortality, lower than free range and barn, which is why the Animal Welfare Code finds it offers welfare consistent with, or superior to other types of farming.
“With all three farming systems there are going to be deaths in flocks, that’s nature at work. Whether its free range, colony cage or barn, each has its positive aspects and each has its negative.
“This footage obtained by SAFE shows birds not typical of the rest of the farm, and certainly not typical of the colony farming system.
We are confident it is an isolated incident, confined to a new colony farm less than a year old which is still learning how to manage a new system within a completely different farm regime.
“The colony cage environment maintains low disease rates, low mortality and higher hygiene standards than current cage farming, which is why the industry is well underway with the transition to this model.
“The ideal from a biosecurity and welfare point of view is a mixed national flock of colony cage, barn and free-range birds and as colony eggs are cheaper than free-range and barn , they offer an important price choice for consumers,” says Michael Brooks.
For further information please contact Michael Brooks, Executive Director Egg Producers Federation, on 027 221 8228, (09) 520 4300 or [email protected]
* Colony cages are large enclosures that can house up to 60 hens, while allowing them to engage in natural behaviours like perching, with nesting areas and scratching pads. They offer distinct welfare advantages over the caged farm system being phased out.