What is humane food?

Humane food is produced with the welfare of the animal as a priority. “Free range”, “barn raised”, “cage free” are all marketing terms and can be confusing. Here’s some information to help demystify them.

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Eggs


Eggs can come from hens confined in a cage or housed in a barn with or without access to an outdoor area.

So, what’s the difference?

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Chicken


Chicken meat comes from birds called broilers. Sadly, they’re one of the most intensively farmed animals in Australia.

But it can be done humanely.

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Pork


Most pigs in Australia are raised on farms where they can’t root in the dirt or wallow in the mud.

There are humane pork choices.

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More about eggs

Cage eggs come from hens housed in battery cages. Hens in these systems have a miserable existence as a result of restricted movement, lack of exercise, uncomfortable wire flooring, and stress as they’re unable to exhibit their natural behaviours. Basic needs such as being able to perch, nest, forage, dustbathe and stretch or flap their wings are not available. This is why the RSPCA is campaigning for an end to battery cages.

Barn-laid eggs come from hens housed in a large barn or shed where they’re able to move around, stretch, flap their wings and socialise. Hens in barns are also able to lay their eggs in a nest and some will also have access to perches and litter for dust bathing. But most importantly, hens aren’t confined to cages.

Free-range eggs come from hens that are able to go outside during the day. Conditions on free-range farms vary. A good free-range farm will allow hens access to a well spaced outdoor area, which includes shade and protection from predators.

RSPCA Approved eggs come from hens that are raised according to the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards. Whether birds are raised in a higher-welfare indoor environment or with access to the outdoors, there’s a focus on providing for the hen’s behavioural and physical needs.

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More about chickens

Meat chickens are bred to grow and gain weight really quickly. Most meat chickens are slaughtered when they’re just 35 days old. This rapid growth can result in extreme health and welfare problems, especially when their environment isn’t well maintained.

Conventional meat chickens are kept in horrible conditions. Over crowding means that chickens are unable to move around and increased contact with the litter can cause painful foot pad burn, hock burn and breast blisters. Chickens can also die from heat stress caused by the cramped conditions in the shed.

Higher welfare indoor means that chickens are raised in a large barn or shed where their physical and behavioural needs are met. With room to move freely and dry litter for foraging, dust bathing and the prevention of burns and blisters. There are also perches and proper lighting, to encourage activity.

Free-range chickens have access to an outdoor area during the day. At night, they’re kept in sheds or barns. Conditions on free-range farms vary greatly. On good free-range farms, the range area is large, provides grass for foraging and has access to shade and shelter.

RSPCA Approved chickens are raised according to the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards. With a focus on providing good housing conditions, birds are given perches, objects to peck and proper lighting which encourages activity and prevents burns and blisters.

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More about pigs

Conventional pork comes from farms where the sows (the mother pigs of the pork that we eat) are confined for all or part of their pregnancy in a sow stall – a barren, metal crate, usually with a concrete floor. With only enough space to stand up, she can’t turn around and can only take a short step forward and back. After the birth of their piglets, sows are moved to an even smaller, farrowing crate, until their piglets are weaned. Pigs farmed in these systems suffer enormously, through a continuous cycle of chronic frustration and discomfort.

Bred free-range pork comes from pigs that are born in a free-range environment, but are raised indoors. This could mean they’re raised in large open sheds with straw bedding or in pens with concrete floors. The sows always have access to the outdoors.

Free-range pork comes from pigs that were born and raised with free access to the outdoors. This means that the sows and growing piglets have access to paddocks, as well as huts or other forms of housing for shelter, and they’re not confined to sow stalls or farrowing crates.

RSPCA Approved pork comes from pigs reared in a well-managed outdoor system, in an enhanced indoor environment or a combination of both. The production system caters for pig’s behavioural and physiological needs by providing environmental enrichment, including straw for rooting and nest building and sufficient space to move freely. RSPCA Standards don’t allow for sow stalls or traditional farrowing crates.

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What’s on your plate?

Many of us care about where our food comes from and would prefer to eat humanely. Today, our choices really do have power!

FInd out how

Deciding to Shop Humane at the supermarket, as well as supporting Choose Wisely restaurants and cafés, will have a positive impact on farm animal welfare.

EGGS – choose wisely and ask for barn laid, free range or RSPCA Approved
CHICKEN – choose wisely and ask for higher welfare, free range or RSPCA Approved
PORK – choose wisely and ask for free range, bred free range or RSPCA Approved

Always look for products accredited by an independent body, like the RSPCA, so you know you’re eating humanely.