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AUSTRALIAN EGG/POULTRY INDUSTRY SNAPSHOT
FUN FACTS ABOUT chooks
There are 19 billion chickens in the world.
‘Chook’ is Australian slang for Chicken.
Egg-laying chooks descended from the Asian red jungle fowl (Gallus Gallus Spadiceus) and are thought to have been domesticated around 8-10 thousand years ago.
Chickens are the closest living relative to the T-Rex.
China has the most chickens in the world with around 4 billion.
There are more chickens on earth than humans! In fact it is estimated that there are twice as many chickens than humans!
There are at least 200 different varieties or breeds of chickens.
Different breeds of chickens produce different coloured eggs- white, brown , blue, blue-green, red and speckled eggs are not uncommon.
A young hen is call a pullet until it begins laying. For commercial egg breeds of chickens this is around 16-20 weeks of age.
A hen can lay between 250-325 eggs per year.
A chicken’s heart beats 4 to 5 times faster than a human’s, at approximately 300 beats per minute.
A rooster is the name given to a male chicken while hen is for female chickens.
Roosters are necessary to fertilize eggs. However, hens will lay eggs regardless if a rooster is present or not. Eggs sold in Australia are unfertilised.
Alektrophobia is a fear of chickens.
Chickens establish a social hierarchy which is where the term pecking order came from.
Chickens can recognise each other’s faces and will avoid chickens they don’t know.
Chickens have distinct calls to communicate messages such as food or predators. There are even separate alarm calls. depending if the predator is above them or at ground level.
A spent hen refers to a chicken which is no longer used for egg production. Typically, this is around 76 weeks of age in Australia.
Fresh eggs sink in water while stale eggs will float. As the egg ages it will lose moisture and will shrink inside the shell meaning that the larger air pockets will cause the egg to float.
All eggs float in salt water.
If you put eggs in vinegar, the acetic acid dissolves calcium carbonate crystals and the egg will become transparent and floppy.
Eggs before being packaged are passed over a bright light to check for shell cracks and internal defects. This is known as “candling”.
The eggshell accounts for about 12% of an egg’s weight and its strength is influenced by the hen’s diet and age.
The average Australian consumes 231 eggs per person each year and the number is growing.
The surface of an eggshell can contains as many as 17,000 tiny pores. This means that gases and water vapour can pass through the shell!
Eggs have their own day known as the “World egg day” which is the second Friday of every October.
The diet of the hen influences the colour of the yolk. The more yellow or orange the feed the darker the egg yolk colour. Australian consumers prefer dark yellow to orange yolks.
The yolk accounts for 33% of the eggs liquid weight and contains approximately 59 calories.
The record for the most yolks found in one egg is nine!
The scientific name for an egg white is the “albumen”.
It is possible for a hen to lay an eggs with no yolk at all!
No hormones are feed to chickens in Australia!
Egg production in Australia
459.2 Million Dozen eggs were produced in Australia in 2017.
The total number of pullets and layer hens in Australia at 30 June 2017 was 27,501,724. This included 19,321,567 layer hens.
There are three main types of egg production systems. These are cage, barn, and free range. All systems have different strengths and challenges as shown below.
Modern caged systems are housed in controlled environment sheds with computerised microclimatic control.
Feeding, manure removal and egg collection are automated in many modern caged systems.
This system of has the lowest level of disease risk, mortality and antibiotic use. 58% of the Australian layers are in cages. Lower mortalities and disease can be attributed to the higher biosecurity measures implemented on cage farm.
Cage based production is the most efficient and productive system and produces eggs at the least cost. With price remaining a key consideration for consumers, this has been the dominant production system used by the industry.
Barn production is a system where birds are free to move within a shed, but not outside.
Shed sizes are generally approximately 10,000 hens.
Being inside the shed eliminates the risks of predators and climate extremes, while allowing birds to nest and perch.
Allowing birds to move around results in a greater proportion of the birds suffering bone fractures and feather pecking.
Birds in barn systems have direct contact with faecal material which increases the risk of contracting a communal disease. The can lead to a higher usage of antibiotics than in cage systems.
Barn & cage systems also reduces biosecurity risks associated with the transfer of diseases from wild birds to the layers.
Free range commercial sheds range from 2,000 to 10,000 birds.
Free range production systems provide birds with the ability to range or move around in both indoor and outdoor areas.
The semi-commercial industry has shed sizes from 100 to 2000 birds.
Birds can nest, graze, dust bathe, perch and move freely.
Birds are exposed to weather conditions, predators and wild birds.
Birds are also exposed to both natural and artificial lighting making egg production in this system more variable throughout the year.
Free range production is more costly for a number of reasons including the greater area of land, labour and feed required per bird.
Climate and Environmental Impacts
Egg producers are committed to ensuring their businesses are efficient and their production systems do not affect the land and waterways that surround them and the catchment system they are part of.
Egg producers minimise the effects of egg production on neighbours by planting trees as screens, locating noisy activities as far away from neighbours as possible, restricting loud activities to daylight hours, keeping manure dry, reducing the potential for odour and fly breeding.
Eggs are a very efficient production system from the carbon footprint of the product. Carbon inputs are energy inputs, transport, feed, and anything that else that goes into the system.
More intensive systems produce a lower carbon footprint and this is due to the efficiency of converting feed into eggs.
Australian egg production systems performed similar or better for carbon footprint compared to other countries around the world. This is due to low impact grain production and modern shed designs.
How do egg producers manage waste?
Waste management is an important part of any egg production system.
Egg producers manage waste to reduce the effects of odour, disease and contamination of neighbouring land or water resources.
Manure and litter waste from egg farms can be used by nurseries, home gardeners, landscape gardeners and other farmers as fertiliser.
To avoid excessive odour and flies egg producers dry fresh manure to a moisture content of 25% or less (fresh excrete manure has a moisture content of about 70%).
Biosecurity refers to the practical measures egg producers can take to limit the spread of infectious diseases and pests, both within the farm and from one farm to another.
Diseases and pests can be introduced to an egg farm by movement of eggs, hens, people, vehicles and equipment between farms, and by water, feed, litter, wild birds, biting insects and rodents.
On farm biosecurity programs reduce the risk of disease spread and can improve overall flock health, cut the costs of disease treatment, reduce deaths and improve farm profitability.
Staff are trained to recognise and report signs of disease and any unexplained deaths. Death and disease records must be kept. If anything, unusual occurs and infectious diseases are expected poultry producers seek the advice of a poultry veterinarian.
Good biosecurity practices on egg farms can include the following and more:
all farm boundaries are secure to prevent access of unauthorized visitors or animals.
visitors, vehicles or equipment are not allowed onto the farm if they have been in contact with other poultry within 24 hours. If access is necessary, vehicles and equipment are cleaned and disinfected prior to entry. Clean clothes/overclothes and footwear are provided for visitors.
shed equipment (including internal surfaces of sheds, especially brooding sheds, at batch depletion) are disinfected.
vehicles that need to enter or closely approach sheds are disinfected by an approved method.
poultry, feed and litter is purchased from approved suppliers with quality assurance programs that meet industry standards and your requirements.
access of wild birds (particularly water fowl, pigeons and psittacines), animals and rodents to sheds is minimized by:
maintenance of fencing and shedding;
control of feed sources;
pest control programs; and
keeping areas around birds clean and clear.
access of outdoor range birds to unsanitised surface water is prevented. Surface water includes water sourced from dams, open tanks, streams and open drains.
replacement pullets are vaccinated against endemic pathogens or emergency diseases (if vaccination is permitted) that threaten your farm.
other birds, poultry or pigs are not keep on a poultry farm.
manure, dead birds and reject eggs are disposed of in an approved manner.
steps are taken to minimise aerosols entering sheds from other sheds on the farm, other poultry farms, processing plants, manure stockpiles, and other birds or pigs.
Why should you eat eggs?
Eggs are a nutrient dense food and can provide you with a large number of essential vitamins and minerals for the whole family. In one serve of eggs you can get:
Essential for nearly every phiological process that occurs within our bodies- cell growth, maintenance and repair, metabolism, digestion, antibody production, and transport of nutrient and oxygen in our bloodstream.
FAT AND OMEGA 3
Fat is a major source of energy, key component of cell membranes and assist in hormone synthesis and absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Omega 3 is essential for the body as it plays a role in regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, brain and spinal cord function.
Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and eyes and for a strong immune system.
Vitamin D assists with the enhancement of calcium and phosphorus absorption, development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and to maintain a healthy nervous and immune system.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin which acts as an antioxidant and helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
Folate helps to develop the nervous system.
Thiamine is essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system and helps the body cells to convert carbohydrates to energy.
Riboflavin assists in the release of energy from carbohydrates, protein and fat as well as assisting in cell respiration.
Vitamin B5 assists with the synthesis of amino acids, fatty acids, sterols, steroid hormones and vitamin D. It also aids the formation of red blood cells.
Iron is an important component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body.
Zinc plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
Selenium helps your body make special proteins known as enzymes.
Iodine is a mineral essential for normal thyroid function and production of thyroid hormones, which are involved in regulating metabolism and development and differentiation of cells.
Choline helps cholesterol and fat metabolism, and transports fat from the liver. It also helps in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involve in nerve and brain functioning and memory.
Eggs contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Increased intakes of these antioxidants have been associated with eye health and may provide protection against age related eye disease. Furthermore, the bioavailability of lutein and zeaxanthin is higher from eggs than from other plant sources. Eggs also contain the amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan which have antioxidant properties.
SO if you’re a kid why should you eat eggs??
Eggs are a nutritious food for children, fitting well within the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents.
Eggs improve the nutrient content of children’s diets.
One serve of eggs provides around a third of the recommended dietary intake of folate for children. Folate is essential for the growth and maintenance of healthy cells.
One serve of eggs provides around half the recommended dietary intake of vitamin A for children. Vitamin A is essential for growth and eye health.
Eggs are a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids which are commonly lacking in the diets of Australian children.