Last updated 22 September 2020

The Australian definition for free-range was created in 2016 under Australian consumer law, though is quite loose, prescribing only that hens have ‘meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during daylight hours during the laying cycle’, are ‘able to roam and forage on the outdoor range’, and are ‘subject to a stocking density of 10,000 hens or less’ per hectare (equating to only one square metre of space each).

Free range

Despite common belief that free-ranging hens' welfare is much higher than that of hens raised in caged or barn-laid systems, hens in free range systems still suffer immensely. Like in barn-laid systems, hens in free-range systems are unable to establish their social pecking order, which causes huge stress and consequently aggression among the flock. Hens are still subjected to painful beak mutilation where the tip of their beak is removed, and are still culled at 18 months old when they are no longer considered ‘useful’ or ‘economically viable’. Lastly, for every hen in the free-range egg system, there was still one male chick killed in a macerator or gas chamber.