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The Federal Agriculture Minister’s comments drawing parallels between an Avian Influenza outbreak and Woolworths’ recent announcement to go cage free are both disappointing and wrong.

Minister Barnaby Joyce’s claims, made today on ABC radio, that moving to free-range egg production could potentially decimate the NSW poultry flock are extreme and misinformed.

Biosecurity is an issue of risk-management. All farms, including free-range systems, should have a clear action plan in place which reduces the risk of a major disease outbreak and includes steps to prevent the spread of disease if it occurs.

Well managed free-range systems have a high-quality indoor environment along with the ability to prevent the birds accessing the outdoors should a disease risk occur.

Biosecurity is an issue for all farmers but reducing the risk of disease should not come at the expense of the hens overall welfare, a balance must and can be reached.

The extensive production of sheep and cattle right across the country includes disease risks like Foot and Mouth but no one is suggesting they be confined indoors in crates as a preventative measure.

Woolworths’ decision to go cage free was made because of consumer demand – the Australian public doesn’t support cage egg production which is evident in changing consumer habits and rising concern for layer hen welfare.

Read Minister Joyce's comments here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-24/free-range-avian-flu/5042392

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