Free-range Egg Production Does Not Raise Bird Flu Risk

AUSTRALIA - An increase in free-range egg production will not lead to a rise in the number of avian flu outbreaks in the industry, according to free-range farmer Phil Westwood.
calendar icon 4 November 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

Senator Barnaby Joyce recently claimed that as the major supermarkets move towards free-range egg production, outbreaks of disease like avian flu would become more common.

According to ABC, Mr Westwood, a free-range egg farmer from Philip Island in south eastern Victoria, said the real problems come from high density systems where large bodies of water attract primary carriers of the disease, wild ducks.

"Most of the problems are created by large numbers of birds, many thousands of birds per shed and per flock," he said.

"Farms [like that] that have big dams are obviously going to very attractive to wild ducks."

Mr Westwood said that low density stocking rates reduce the need for large dams, which generally leads to less wild ducks on farm.

Mr Westwood also accused Senator Joyce of being "misinformed" and only listening to "the big end of town."

"The corporate egg producers are the ones that are telling him this is an issue, because they don't really want to go down the free-range route," he said.

"To do the mickey-mouse operations that the big corporations are trying to do ... and call them free-range, isn't going to work and is going to generate more of these sorts of problems."

The definition of 'free-range' is debatable, as there is no national standard in place, concludes the ABC report.

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