Our colleagues at Animals Australia and the Barristers Animal Welfare Panel filed a complaint recently with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Their complaint focused on alleged misleading or deceptive advertising related to claims about the treatment of chickens raised for meat by various companies and the trade association, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation. It’s not known exactly when the Federal Court in Melbourne will take its next step.
At the centre of the complaint is the phrase ‘free to roam’. This is used by the food producers to describe how they raise chickens for meat consumption. For example, one company describes how they raise chickens and turkeys in specifically built poultry houses where they are free to roam and have easy access to ample food and water.
This sounds all well and good except that this is a description of a broiler shed.
Broiler sheds are generally bare except for water and food points. They have no natural light. There is litter on the floor to absorb droppings. It’s customary for this to be cleared when they’re emptied for slaughter. Tens of thousands of chickens may be housed in each shed. They lack exercise. They are disturbed or trodden on when they’re resting. There’s no escape to an empty part of a field. As they grow larger, the space available to them contracts as the building holding them is finite. Some find it difficult to reach food and drink water if they’re lame. They’re unable to forage as they would naturally. Crowding is also likely to lead to more air pollution, increased heat stress and foul litter.
Whereas ‘free to roam’ may suggest to some ‘free range’, but it is far from it. This is why the complaint was filed.