Birds on the Move: Free-Range Innovation is Changing the Landscape of Egg Production

4th September 2023
As consumer preferences change, so do the management of egg production.

In the era of consumerism and growing environmental awareness, the agricultural industry is undergoing a significant transformation towards ethical practices. Nowhere in agriculture is this transformation more evident than in the evolution of egg production.

While conventional cage systems still dominate in the Asia Pacific region, there is a transition towards free range egg production methods with countries like Australia and New Zealand leading this movement. This change reflects a commitment to improving animal welfare, promoting environmental stewardship and providing consumers with eggs that align with their evolving values.

In fact, one of Big Dutchman’s customers from New Zealand – simply called Better Eggs – has gone as far to create an entirely new product line called Forest Range to meet today’s consumers’ ethical standards. As a reputed player in the free-range and organic egg segments, Better Eggs are now pioneering the world’s first production farm that will have hens living in a forest environment during daytime foraging. The project that covers 140 hectares with a capacity of 320,000 birds across 8 farms will provide hens outdoor access amidst sprawling greenery.

“Eggs produced in an ethical environment is going to be a focus for consumers moving forward”. Gareth van der Hayden – CEO, Better Eggs

“Eggs produced in an ethical environment is going to be a focus for consumers moving forward”. Gareth van der Hayden – CEO, Better Eggs

And when these birds retreat indoors, their comfort is well taken care of with the animal friendly NATURA aviary systems from Big Dutchman. This cage-free system features an animal-friendly design using a functional structure that is easy for the hens to understand, while providing utmost hygiene and efficiency. The barn is also complete with Big Dutchman’s feeding, drinking and ventilation systems – all tailored towards free range egg production. These systems also use devices, sensors and data analytics that help to constantly monitor production, enabling the optimal use of resources and ensure wellbeing of the flock.

The Evolution of Egg Production: from Confinement to Liberation

Traditionally egg production has been associated with cramped spaces where hens are confined to battery cages. However, this perception is changing as farmers and consumers recognise the inherent limitations and ethical concerns associated with such systems. Enter free-range egg production – a liberating approach that reimagines egg farming as a partnership between farmers, hens, and the environment.

Hens enjoying the natural forest environment at Better Eggs' free-range farm.

At the core of the free-range revolution are five fundamental benefits:

1. Improved Animal Welfare
Free range systems provide hens with opportunities to engage in behaviours like foraging, dust bathing and stretching their wings under open skies. Scientific studies have shown that hens in free-range environments experience enhanced mental wellbeing. The freedom to roam outdoors positively influences their interactions resulting in healthier and happier flocks.

2. Positive Environmental Impact
Free-range egg production systems contribute to a healthier planet. As chickens roam freely outdoors, they not only eat grains but also consume insects, seeds and plants. This goes on to reduce the need for resource intensive feed but also has a positive impact on the environment. Their diet and movement help improve soil health, enhance nutrient cycling and reduce the carbon footprint commonly associated with egg production.

3. A Thriving Balance
In free range egg production system, hens are given the freedom to roam outdoor areas – a crucial aspect of their wellbeing. This simple act of allowing chickens to interact with their surroundings has far-reaching positive effects on local ecosystems. As they search for insects, seeds and plants while foraging outdoors, these birds inadvertently play a role as eco guardians in maintaining natures equilibrium. The natural behaviours exhibited by hens such as scratching and dust bathing go beyond survival instincts; they become catalysts that trigger a cascade of ecological benefits.

4. Engaging with the Local Community
Farms that embrace free-range methods become more than centres of egg production – they become hubs of learning, connection, and shared values. Free range egg production fosters bonds between farmers and their communities. As hens freely roam and engage in their natural behaviours, they transcend being mere agricultural commodities; they become ambassadors of change. The sight of hens exploring open pastures resonates with consumers who increasingly prioritise ethical and sustainable food choices. This resonance bridges the gap between rural areas, consumers and producers creating a collective story of responsible food production.

A Promising Future for Free Range Egg Production

Like any transformative endeavour, transitioning to free range egg production comes with challenges. Factors such as cost considerations, finding suitable land and disease management require thoughtful solutions. However, the potential rewards – both in terms of animal wellbeing and consumer satisfaction – make taking on these challenges a worthy effort.

Big Dutchman's NATURA aviary system in action at the Better Eggs production farm.

The outlook for free range egg production, in the Asia Pacific region looks promising. Consumer demand, technological advancements and progressive policies are driving the industry forward. Farmers, researchers and policymakers are working together to improve and enhance free-range systems with the goal of creating an ethical egg industry.

As farmers, consumers and even governments unite in this vision, Big Dutchman is ready to be a growth and technology partner innovative free-range egg production in Asia.

Revolutionise your egg production with cage-free systems that prioritise animal welfare. Click the ‘Send a Message’ below to talk to us!

Learn more about Better Eggs, New Zealand and their Forest Range concept. Click Here!

Written by:

Cadwallader, Steve, Area Sales Manager, Australia & NZ, Business Unit EGG