LIVING FREE: Rob Waterson’s bond brown hens rule the roost at Silver Dale egg farm and (top) free-range eggs have been stacked for local and state-wide use and (above) special open-air trailers that stay open 24/7 so the chooks can roam freely.
LIVING FREE: Rob Waterson’s bond brown hens rule the roost at Silver Dale egg farm and (top) free-range eggs have been stacked for local and state-wide use and (above) special open-air trailers that stay open 24/7 so the chooks can roam freely.

VIDEO | Calliope farm 1 of 2 RSPCA certified egg suppliers

AS ONE of only two RSPCA certified free range egg suppliers in Australia, Rob Waterson's chooks probably do not know how good they have got it.

Mr Waterson owns the Silver Dale egg farm at Calliope and supplies the region as well as the state with prime yolky goodness from his incredibly "free" bond brown hens.

>> RELATED: Egg eaters misled on 213 million free range eggs: consumer group

Mr Waterson's hens permanently roam free at a stocking density of 1,500 per hectare and appear healthy and happy.

But this all comes at a cost, and the price of freedom for Mr Waterson's hens does not come cheaply.

"None of this warm and fuzzy stuff comes without downstream costs," Mr Waterson said.

"But it's nice to think we're doing the right thing.

"It's a personal journey and although the cost of running is quite high and we don't make any significant money out of it…it's a personal choice and we love them," he said.

Every year the RSPCA conducts two to three audits of Mr Waterson's free range egg farm which, if he passes, allows him to continue to use the RSPCA stamp of approval on his packaging.

However Mr Waterson does not think the RSPCA's endorsement means too much to consumers, even the ones with a conscience.

"I don't think most people in supermarkets would read it," he said.

"They would walk along, look at the price, see how much they have in their purse and make a decision based on how much money they have. "There are some people who only buy our eggs but whether you put 1500 or 10,000 [as the stocking density] on the side of a carton of eggs, it wouldn't make much of a difference," he said.

State and federal ministers will meet today to decide on a national standard for "free range" eggs.

Mr Waterson believes setting a new standard will be beneficial for consumers but won't make much of a difference for him. "It helps from the purchaser's point of view," he said.

"But if you're going to be free range than you've actually got to be free range.

"You can't just have a barn with a few doors to let them outside...they need an incentive," he said.



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