Australian farms raise a huge variety of livestock in lots of different settings. We rely on our farmers, and the animals they look after, for our meat, our eggs and our milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt.
According to the National Farmer’s Federation, our farmers produce almost 93 percent of the food we eat each day in Australia and grow enough food to feed 600 people: 150 in Australia and 450 overseas. They also contribute $38 billion in export income to the economy and manage some 59 percent of Australia’s land.
Sometimes the way farmers raise their animals is seen as unkind to the animals. Chickens and pigs, especially, might be raised in cages without much room to run around. This is sometimes called factory farming because the animals generally live in large factory-like sheds. While there once may have been good reasons for this, generally people believe animals are happier if they can roam around more freely.
Rather than being raised in cages, it is kinder to raise animals as “free range”. Being free range means the animals live in open paddocks. This lets them behave as they would normally. For example, chickens love to scratch and peck looking for worms or shoots. Pigs like to wallow in mud and female pigs find grass and sticks to build a big nest to have their piglets in. They can do this in a paddock but not in a cage.
Most farmers care passionately about their animals and their land. Often farming systems have developed because supermarkets want the food they buy from farmers, to always be the same. This is so that when you go to do your grocery shopping you know exactly what you are getting.
But making food this way means more and more control over how an animal is raised and less freedom for farmers and their animals to just do what comes naturally.
Free range animals and their produce are simply not as predictable as those raised in cages.
For example, free range eggs from chickens that have lots of room to forage in the paddock vary widely in shell colour and size. But they are all delicious and if you choose an extra big egg you might even find a double yolker!
To help change how farmer’s raise their animals, we need to help them raise their animals outside of cages, while still making money. If the farmer’s can’t afford to produce our food then, maybe, there will be no food!
The best way to bring about change is at the supermarket. Supermarkets in Australia pretty much get to choose what we eat. In turn, they tell the farmer what they will buy. If growing an animal in a free range environment costs more, then we need to be prepared to pay that little extra.
– Ask your teacher to dedicate some class time to teach others about it, or present to the class!
– Join a group which speak up for animals like Unleashed.
– Take action by joining a pledge like #makeitpossible.
– Ask your supermarkets where their food comes from and encourage them to stock the foods that come from farms that are kind to animals.
– talk to your local politicians who can change laws to protect farm animals.