In recent times, the farming industry has come under the spotlight somewhat for the way that animals are treated. As a result, new standards have been set, and it’s normal for dairy products to hold the name ‘free range’, but what does this actually mean? What’s the difference between free-range cattle and commercially housed cattle?
What’s Free Range?
For many years, cattle would be housed in confined quarters with very little access to fresh air and movement. Often, each cow would be in a space not much bigger than their size, and they had very little room to even turn around. Essentially, farmers were feeding them and raising them for slaughter. In the meantime, the cows had a limited life (and not a very enjoyable one at that!).
As you can imagine, the treatment of farm animals was questioned and now the industry has gone through a revolution. As a result, many farm animals have… well, free-range. While some animals are allowed to roam freely for the whole day, others go outside during certain hours. However, the point is that they aren’t confined to indoor spaces 24/7.
Of course, the outdoor spaces like they have at The Little Big Dairy Co will have fences, and this means that the cattle can never roam too far from the farm. However, the cattle are considered free-range because they can roam the available land, enjoy the sun, and aren’t cooped up inside.
When you see the term ‘free range’ on products, now you know what this means. Not only does it apply to eggs, but you’ll also see the description on meats, milk, and various other dairy products. When buying free-range products, you support better lives for animals and practices within the farming industry.
Legislation and Law
In Australia, there’s no legally binding legislation covering this area of society. Therefore, farms and companies tend to rely on third-party certifications. With this certification, rearers can associate their dairy products with quality, and it helps to explain the story to consumers.
Since there’s no legislation, all companies can use the phrase ‘free range’ on their products. However, all farmers and companies in this niche are under pressure from consumers and their expectations. If a company were to use the phrase incorrectly, they would come under lots of pressure, and their reputation would take a large hit. With this in mind, it tends to be used accurately.
Free Range Cattle
When it comes to cattle, in particular, farmers are trying to increase the number of hours that cows spend outside in a given week, month, or year. Especially in the warmer months, free-range farms are now allowing their cattle to graze for long periods. They can roam pastures not just during the day but throughout the night too. Grazing is what cows do in the wild, and it’s the life they deserve while on a farm.
Since grass stops growing during the winter months, cattle might spend more time inside. However, rearers still provide them with grass and keep them outside as much as possible. Ultimately, farmers are always running calculations based on milk production, weather, temperature, and more.
While free-range cattle roam free and are allowed to graze for long periods of the day, commercially housed cattle are kept inside. While some housing systems are stress-free and provide good conditions for cattle, free-range is generally accepted as the best option for the animals. Not only this, but it can also help with the quality of milk.