The SPCA affirms it: “free-range” does not mean your poultry had a happy time down on the farm

The chooks that were cannibalised in the Wairarapa will never know it, probably, but they have died in a good cause.

They have demonstrated that “free range” on food labels has nothing much to do with animal welfare.

Alf always knew as much.

But his constituents have had this affirmed on the good authority of the SPCA, which has issued a statement on the matter in the aftermath of a free-range layer hen farm in Martinborough being abandoned by the farmers.

As was recorded here two days ago, many hens were left neglected, to fend for themselves, and they set about eating each other, but not – presumably – with fries as an accompaniment.

The SPCA got in on the act yesterday with a media statement to explain that “free range” on your food label does not necessarily show the poultry is the product of good animal welfare practices.

The SPCA wants to alert New Zealand consumers that term “free-range” is no guarantee of good animal welfare but simply a marketing term.

Robyn Kippenberger, National Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA, confirms there are no legal definitions of any farming methods in New Zealand so unless farms are audited and checked regularly against specified standards there will always be room for poor welfare.

“Don’t be tricked by clever and confusing labelling of products” says Ms Kippenberger

“Marketing terms “free-to-roam”, “free-range” or “free-farmed” are no guarantee of good animal welfare without independent auditing and a third party trusted certification mark. Poor farming practices can lead to neglect such as seen in the free range farm in Martinborough. Events like this bring the whole industry into question”

There’s an element of good old-fashioned commerce in the SPCA media statement, because it draws our attention to its National Blue Tick accreditation scheme.

This scheme – it explains – offers a system of specific standards and auditing to farmers wishing to ensure consumer confidence in their animal welfare practices.

The Blue Tick logo on eggs, pork and chicken identifies these products have been farmed to high SPCA welfare requirements. Independent auditors visit farms regularly and have contractual agreement to spot audit without notice.

Consumers can see for themselves on the SPCA website the farming standards applied by farmers and auditors under the scheme.

And the SPCA claims to be in regular contact with its farmers and auditors to guarantee they are farming humanely.

So how much money rolls in under the scheme, who collects it and how is it spent?

Good questions.

The media statement simply hints at the SPCA benefiting financially. Its National Accreditation and Marketing Manager Juliette Banks says –

“In addition, the scheme is actively promoting cage-free farming so by purchasing SPCA Blue Tick products you are helping to free animals from cages”

SPCA Blue Tick products are available in Progressive and Foodstuff supermarkets, specialty food stores and butchers around the country.

Let’s get real about this.

Farmers won’t get their stamps of approval for nothing.

This is affirmed at the SPCA website. Anyone wanting to display the SPCA Blue Tick logo on their products is advised that, to join the scheme, they must sign a legal contract.

If you are interested in obtaining SPCA Blue Tick certification for your products, we would love to hear from you. You do not have to be an egg or pork producer – we are keen on expanding our Blue Tick range so would love to have a chat with you. Our focus is on animal welfare, and we are more than happy to work with you to get your new or existing farm up to standard.

If a farmer wants to join up, an independent auditor will carry out an audit of his or her farm.

There is a cost to you to do this – please call us for a quote which differs for each industry

Once you pass muster with the auditor and the SPCA agrees to accept you into the scheme (this is at their discretion), the legal contract will be signed and you will be given permission to use the SPCA Blue Tick logo on your accredited product.

Terms and conditions are included in the contract, but –

Royalties of 1.5% on wholesale sales are payable on a quarterly basis to the scheme, which pays for the management and promotion of the brand.

Ongoing annual audits are payable by the scheme unless failed. Spot audits are payable by the scheme unless failed, these may be done at anytime, and are.

Dunno if Mrs Grumble goes searching for the Blue Tick when she goes shopping.

But she is highly cost-conscious and will opt for poultry being sold as a “special” if it costs less than anything with a heart tick, an SPCA tick, or any other bloody tick.

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One Response to The SPCA affirms it: “free-range” does not mean your poultry had a happy time down on the farm

  1. Suz says:

    Good to know that I now need to look for the blue tick…have always naively assumed “free range” equated with humane conditions. Shame on me!

    A few years ago my sister purchased the property next door to her in Pauatahanui..a former battery chicken farm, the conditions of which were so horrific, the case went to court, charges laid against the owners etc.

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