Free-Range eggs (FR)
There is no standard definition for free-range egg production in New Zealand. The Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare 2018 does not specify basic standards such as size of outdoor area and the maximum numbers of hens per flock. This means you have to rely on company carton claims when deciding what brand of free-range eggs to buy.
Some free-range farms house up to 45,000 hens per building - unnaturally large flock sizes are stressful for hens. Maximum indoor stocking densities for free-range production are 9 hens per square meter.
Many hens do not get outside at all. When thousands of territorial hens are confined in one building, dominant hens often block exits.
Many free-range hens have had their beaks trimmed off with a laser as a chick, depending on the certification standards applied. This is done because hens get frustrated when kept in large numbers. They take this frustration out on other hens by pecking them. This can turn into cannibalism.
Most large industrial cage egg producers now also have free-range operations.
Free-range hens are killed at 18 months old and are typically used for pet food. At that age, hens lay less and produce eggs that have thinner shells, which affects profitability. (Video credit: Tamara Kenneally).
Male chicks born into the egg industry have no use as they don't lay eggs and they are not used for meat production New Zealand. The egg industry kills over three million day-old male chicks every year by gassing or instantaneous fragmentation (minced alive at a high speed).