Free-range and organic produce in demand

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Hens in a spacious field in Victoria Though most hens won't get this much space, a free-range regulation is a step in the right direction Hens in a spacious field in Victoria

Organic crop, poultry and free-range egg farmers are benefiting from a more health-conscious society willing to spend extra for their goods, according to IBISWorld.

As demand for organic produce increases, national smoking rates and alcohol consumption levels are down.

At the same time, overall fruit and vegetable consumption has risen, suggesting Australians have become increasingly aware of their health over the past few years.

Organic crop revenue is expected to rise 4.3 per cent through 2016-17 to $209.6 million, while revenue for poultry farmers is expected to grow 4.5 per cent over the same period to $535.8 million.

Free-range eggs have seen a spike in demand after animal welfare was brought into the spotlight, with an expected revenue increase of 4.9 per cent.

Free-range eggs are expected to account for 51 per cent of revenue and 40 per cent of production in 2016-17, while organic eggs are estimated to make up 1.5 per cent of revenue and 1 per cent of production.

Part of the push for free-range eggs from consumers arose from the lack of legal definition of the term ‘free-range’.

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In March 2016, the Federal Government introduced a requirement for free-range producers to adhere to a maximum stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare.

For a short time after this, demand outstripped supply as farmers changed their practices to fall within the new regulations.

Overall, organic food is still a small portion of Australia’s total production at less than 5 per cent by volume, but is expected to expand as health and animal welfare concerns drive up demand.

Revenue for egg farmers is projected to rise 3 per cent each year over the five years through 2021-22 to $872.8 million, as growing consumption of free-range and organic eggs attracts higher prices than cage and barn-laid eggs.

Earlier in 2016, the Australian Egg Corporation criticised Aldi for its decision to phase out cage eggs from its stores.

Despite this, and in line with current trends, many consumers welcomed the decision.

At the same time, Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White said all animal protection groups were united in their call for the battery cage to be phased out by all supermarkets.

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