Free range pork and turkey

The lack of a clear definition of free range makes it difficult for consumers to know exactly how Australian free-range meat is farmed
 
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01 .The free-range pork dilemma

The dilemma of finding free-range pork

Will there be some pork on your fork this week? And if so, will you give any thought to its journey from paddock to plate?

It’s estimated that 97% of the 4.8 million pigs produced annually in Australia are raised indoors with no outdoor access. These farms are variously referred to as intensive, conventional or factory farming. Only the other three per cent is free range or organic pigs.

In this report you'll find:

What are the regulations around free range pork? 

Animal welfare concerns mean some consumers are prepared to pay extra for free-range pork products. But with no legally binding definition of free range in Australia, producers and retailers are free to make their own decisions about free-range labelling. The animals can be farmed under a wide variety of conditions that may not gel with consumer perceptions of free range.

While the states police animal welfare issues, the policing of free-range labelling falls to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which can investigate if complaints are made about misleading free-range labels.

The closest we have to an official definition of free range comes from the federal government’s Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pork. This sets out the minimum farming standards with which producers are legally obliged to comply.

The Model Code describes the “outdoor” farming method as “free range in paddocks with shelter such as arks or huts”. It doesn't specify any extra welfare provisions as part of free-range systems. This means animals can be raised according to minimum welfare standards of the code, but as long as they have access to an outside area they can be called free range.

Welfare concerns

One welfare concern about pigs that may drive some consumers to consider paying a premium for free range is stocking densities – how many animals are held together in a space of a certain size and how much room they have to move around. 

For pigs raised indoors, the Model Code Pork requires less than 1m2 per 120kg pig.  ONLINE_FreeRange_Bubble

For outdoor pigs, the maximum stocking limits for sows and boars (used mainly for breeding) are “recommended” in the code, but there are no guidelines around the maximum number of grower pigs (used for meat) that can be kept in paddocks. So consumers have no way to telling how much space "free-range" pigs really have.

Other concerns raised about the treatment of pigs include the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates (see Jargon Buster), teeth clipping and tail docking, as well as the use of drugs such as lean muscle-building ractopamine. All these practices are allowed under the Model Code.

True free range?

The loose definition of free range is a source of frustration to some smaller farmers, who claim consumers are being misled by big Australian pork producers whose methods don’t fit with how many consumers perceive free range pork, ham and bacon.

“You won’t find genuine free range in the sense that consumers understand it in supermarkets,” says Ben Cinch, owner of The Free Range Butcher. "The big brands are looking for maximum marketing appeal at the supermarket shelf, for minimum system changes on the farm.” 

For more on organic and free range, see our section on food and drink.

 
 

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This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

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National Prescribing Service

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An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

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MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

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The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

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Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

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The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
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DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

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healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

DrGoogle_App_FristAidBagHealthInsite

healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

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