Sunday, June 07, 2015

Ministers finally to decide on 'free range' standard

We understand that all State Ministers for Consumer Affairs/Fair Trading will meet this Friday (June12) to decide on a standard or legal definition for free range egg production. If they reach agreement, the standard will apply nationally. It is not known what drafts have been prepared for the Ministers to consider, but it is hoped that any enforceable standard will be based on the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry)which sets limits on stocking densities and prohibits beak trimming as a normal procedure. It will be useful if the standard reflects the voluntary standard in South Australia, and the Federal Court ruling on free range egg production.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Eggs shouldn't need to be washed


We are often asked if our eggs are washed. The answer is NO. There is no need for eggs to be washed on a properly managed farm.If nest boxes and sheds are clean, and there is no build-up of mud and manure around sheds, the eggs will be clean. But the problem is massive in barns housing many thousands of birds.Many of the eggs will be laid on floor, in manure perhaps a foot deep. More than 95% of eggs sold in Victoria are washed – but the process which is claimed to reduce bacterial entry into the eggs can actually increase the risk of contamination.

The washing process is often poorly supervised, but there are approved chemicals and quantities which are supposed to be used.

Chlorine based detergent is recommended in all egg washers.
In the right concentrations it can be effective in removing debris and microorganisms from the shell of the egg,
Quaternary ammonia based products are used for
final sanitation and a defoamer is added to control excessive foam in the washer

The active ingredients in the sanitiser which is residual on the egg shell surface are:
1-OCTANAMINIUM, N,N-DIMETHYL-N-OCTYL-, CHLORIDE

ALKYL(C12-16)DIMETHYLBENZYLAMMONIUM CHLORIDE

DIDECYLDIMETHYLAMMONIUM CHLORIDE


This pesticide is used as a:

  • DISINFECTANT
  • FUNGICIDE
  • FUNGICIDE/FUNGISTAT
  • SANITIZER
  • VIRUCIDE and is commonly found on the shells of most eggs – even from organic farms.
  •  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sustainability and the economy


In many opinions, Western society has been in decline for decades (if not centuries) but we do seem to be heading towards the abyss at an ever increasing speed.

Australia is probably a reasonable reflection of what is happening elsewhere (at least if the drivel in newspapers and on television is any guide.

There is little real political choice when it comes to elections as all party hacks scramble for the 'middle ground' In Australia there is virtually nothing to choose on economic policies between the Liberal/National coalition government and the Labor opposition. Both also have almost identical policies on defence (which would better be described as aggression). They both endorse any action required by the US.

Despite claimed financial constraints, unlimited funds are always found for military adventures. Politicians are happy to send young men to fight, even if the wars are unwinnable – such as afghanistan and the current Middle East debacle.

The whole IS fiasco is a result of the actions of the US, Britain and Australia. Following the intervention in Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq and the destabilisation of Libya and Syria the world has been embroiled in terrorist activities.

The whole system of western governments is dominated by economics. All activities are reduced to a dollar value.

The chase for ever-increasing GDP and all other financial indicators locks us in to a perpetual spiral of booms and busts). There may be a few years of growth between the cycles such as between the 1930's depression and the recent so-called Global Financial Crisis – brought about by corporate greed and political stupidity.

Continual economic growth is not possible, but no politician is brave enough to admit it.

Steady State Economics presents a different view of how we could run the world, instead of chasing the illusion of perpetual growth. It offers the concept of an economy that is completely sustainable. A community with a size and structure that doesn't grow, but remains stable to match the limits of the natural environment and its resources.



Steady State Economics presents a different view of how we could run the world, instead of chasing the illusion of perpetual growth. It offers the concept of an economy that is completely sustainable. A community with a size and structure that doesn't grow, but remains stable to match the limits of the natural environment and its resources.

Greed and self-interest led to the last global financial meltdown. It was an inevitable result of Government policies, big business demands, and mass gullibility. It will happen again (and again) unless Governments, industrialists, commercial interests and individuals choose a different path from the God 'growth'. The same greed resulted in a pathetic and useless outcome from the climate change talks in Copenhagen. It has also brought us the fiscal nonsense of 'quantitative Easing', derivatives trading and the crooked financial advisers favourite con of 'margin lending'.

Traditionally, economics taught in our universities has been based on an assumption that continuous growth is the only way to generate a better life for everyone on the planet. It argues that growth will raise living standards, lift people out of poverty whilst the cycle of supply and demand will solve environmental problems and the depletion of world resources. The classic view is that exponential growth is good and fast growth is even better.

Advocates of steady-state economics dispute this view. One of the first was John Stuart Mill in the 19th century and he has been followed by people like Herman Daly who maintains that the economy is a subset of our ecosystem. The global ecosystem is finite, a closed system which cannot grow. Matter neither enters nor leaves it. The ecosystem also provides the economy’s resources and a sink for its wastes. Continuous growth forces a collapse in the ecosystem which then becomes unable to support the economy and the community.

Some who question the current economic system, note that the ecology of the planet is increasingly under pressure, with natural resources such as forests, fish stocks, minerals and soil being depleted at alarming rates. Land for food production is increasingly scarce and pollution levels are making water and air unusable or unsafe. 
 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Salmonella workshop for egg producers

A workshop on food safety on egg farms - particularly potential problem with food-borne illnessers like salmonella will be held in Melbourne on June 2. This is very timely given the deaths of two people and the hospitalisation of hundreds in Europe. .It also follows a salmonella incident in Victoria in February when hundreds were made ill after eating eggs at two restaurants. In Queensland there were 2000 cases in March this year.
The only problem with this workshop is that the people who most need to be there won't bother.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

There is no need for eggs to be washed - even though it is common practice


It's important for all egg farmers – large and small - to produce eggs that present the lowest health risks for consumers. Production of visibly clean eggs, free from dirt and faecal contamination, is the primary concern in the supply of table eggs and it's not hard as long as the farm has good flock management practices.For the shelf life of an egg and from a food safety perspective, it is important to lower the level of bacterial contamination on eggs. If there is an increase in the number of bacteria present on the egg shell surface, the chances rise of eggshell penetration and contamination of the egg internally. Washing and sanitising are common practices on some farms but studies on the quality of stored eggs has frequently shown that washing increases the probability of spoilage.The cleaning of eggs by washing has been widely condemned.

The egg emerges from the cloaca moist and at a temperature of 41°C and organic matter adheres to the moist shell and as it cools bacteria can be drawn into the pores of the shell (Sexton, 2014). The outermost layer of the shell is the cuticle. This is a non-calcified proteinacious layer added to the shell just before it leaves the uterus. The cuticle is responsible for the smooth, glossy appearance of a freshly laid egg and the cuticle protects the egg from invasion with microorganisms. On the surface of the cuticle are pores that extend through the calcified layer to the egg membrane. These pores are responsible for the exchange of gases (oxygen into the egg and CO2 out) and loss of water vapour from the egg interior. A typical hen’s egg contains 6,500 pores, with the greatest concentration of pores at the blunt end of the shell over the air cell. The shell is not considered to be a significant obstacle to bacterial penetration although the underlying shell membranes are a more effective barrier . It is a vulnerable package and may crack. Egg shell integrity declines with increasing bird age.


At oviposition, 90% of eggs are germ free. The eggshell can be contaminated by any surface with which the egg comes in contact. Faeces, water, caging material, nesting material, insects, hands, broken eggs, dust on the egg belt, blood and soil are the most common sources of eggshell contamination Eggs become contaminated internally by two primary means, transovarian or trans-shell contamination

  • Freshly laid eggs may be contaminated through the oviduct and the presence of certain bacterial species can indicative of an infected bird. This is called vertical transmission, i.e., transovarian transmission of Salmonella spp., especially S. Enteritidis, which is dependent upon the presence of infected ovaries and the migration of bacteria across the vitelline membrane into the substance of the yolk during egg formation. Vertical transmission occurs as a result of Salmonella infection of the reproductive organs i.e. ovaries or oviduct and the egg yolk membrane or albumen surrounding is directly contaminated. Salmonella enteritidis is not endemic in Australian laying flocks.
  • Horizontal transmission, which can occur both before and after shell formation. Infection of the inner egg can occur from the moment of ovulation onwards until consumption. Trans-shell contamination involves the initial contamination of the egg surface, followed by the subsequent penetration by the microorganisms into the albumen or in some cases directly into the yolk. Trans-shell movement of bacteria can occur under the appropriate conditions of temperature, humidity etc in spite of the number of defence mechanisms to limit the effects of such an event

Washing of eggs is rarely applied within the European Union, except by a few packers in Sweden and one in the Netherlands however it is common in the USA, Japan and here inAustralia. The practice of washing of eggs in Europe has been developed to clean dirty eggs (grade B) however it seems that in some countries where washing is practised it is seen as a means of improving microbial quality and of reducing the risks of infection of the internal egg.

. In Australia the vast majority of eggs are washed prior to packing to remove dirt and faecal material and in an effort to reduce the microbial contamination of the egg shell. However, if the washing process is not carefully controlled, it c an actually increaxse the level of contamination.

The EU is concerned about egg washing and the possibility of deterioration of the cuticle, which protects the egg against dehydration and offers a natural barrier to common microorganisms, and occasional pathogenic microorganisms, present in the flora that colonise the surface of the egg. There is also concern in the EU and in Australia that washing is used to cover up poor husbandry and hygiene standards on farms and in packing centres.



Friday, May 08, 2015

Egg labelling confusion

The are strong moves to tighten up the rules on egg labelling in Australia - but there is still a long way to go before we get to a degree of honesty which helps to rebuild consumer confidence. We are not alone, very similar issues affect the industry overseas - particularly in the US and Europe.  Here's a link to some info which demonstrates the problem.http://www.fix.com/blog/egg-health-production-and-labeling/  http://www.fix.com/blog/egg-health-production-and-labeling/
Itr is hoped that here, Ministers for Fair Trading and consumer Affairs will approve a national 'free range' standard when they meet next month.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Federal Budget - how about something really meaningful?




With the Federal Budget being brought down next week, it's time to reflect on how things could be. When I arrived in Australia, Frank Crean wasTreasurer - and things haven't improved since. Treasurers take the same advice from incumbent bureaucrats and make the same mistakes as their predecessors

Steady State Economics presents a different view of how we could run the world, instead of chasing the illusiuon of perpetual growth. It offers the concept of an economy that is completely sustainable. A community with a size and structure that doesn't grow, but remains stable to match the limits of the natural environment and its resources.



Greed and self-interest led to the last global financial meltdown. It was an inevitable result of Government policies, big business demands and mass gullibility.It will happen again (and again)unless Governments, industrialists, commercial interests and individuals choose a different path from the God 'growth'. The same greed resulted in a pathetic and useless outcome from the climate change talks in Copenhagen.

Traditionally, economics taught in our universities has been based on an assumption that continuous growth is the only way to generate a better life for everyone on the planet. It argues that growth will raise living standards, lift people out of povertywhilst the cycleof supply and demand will solve environmental problems and the depletion of world resources. The classic view is that exponential growth is good and fast growth is even better.

Advocates of steady-state economics dispute this view. One of the first was John Stuart Mill in the 19th century and he has been followed by people like Herman Daly who maintains that the economy is a subset of our ecosystem. The global ecosystem is finite, a closed system which cannot grow. Matter neither enters nor leaves it. The ecosystem also provides the economy’s resources and a sink for its wastes. Continuous growth forces a collapse in the ecosystem which then becomes unable to support the economy and the community.

Some who question the current economic system, note that the ecology of the planet is increasingly under pressure, with natural resources such as forests, fish stocks, minerals and soil being depleted at alarming rates. Land for food production is increasingly scarceand pollution levels are making water and air unusable or unsafe.

The idea of a steady state economy is a way of addressing the problems of an unsustainable human society. Because the resources of the economy are all derived from the natural environment, the ecological dependence and the availability of natural capital means there are strict limits to any growth. Instead of continuous growth and 'development', a steady state economy would have zero growth, at sustainable levels of production and resource use. Renewable resources would only be used at a natural replacement rate and non-renewable resources would be used no faster than renewable alternatives could be found. Limits would be needed for population size, consumption, and the gathering of personal wealth. The steady state would maintain the entire population at a comfortable level which neither threatens the natural eco-systems and resources of our world, nor forces people to live uncomfortable lifestyles.

One definition of sustainability is to have a population and an economy in equilibrium. The birth rate matches the death rate and commercial activity is maintained at a constant level. If we reach this state, the peaks and troughs of a demand-driven society expecting to make more money this year than in the previous year will be a matter of ancient folk lore

There have been many arguments against the steady state theory. Oneis that zero growth would result in a serious economic depression, high unemployment and huge shortages. However, Daly counters this by pointing out that such a depression is part of the design of the current economic system. It's an inevitable consequence of chasing growth. A steady state economy has an entirely different basis that requires a smaller economy which better matches the availability of resources. Under a steady state system there can be no shortage. Our current economy has become far too large relative to the ecosystems and it cannot be sustained at this level. Just as economists and accountants teach that a business has an optimal scale of operations, where the marginal revenue equals the marginal cost, the optimal scale of the economy is where the marginal gain from growth equals the marginal cost of growth – costs such as pollution and resource depletion. It's clear that,over time, growth generates more costs than benefits.

Implementing the theory of steady state economics is inherently difficult. It requires a total change of ideology for economists, consumers and governments of developed and developing countries, and meets strong opposition to what is seen as its extreme requirements. Their whole thinking revolves around growth. It's hard to imagine the mandarins in organisations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or any of the Government leaders in the G20 looking kindly on any suggestion that they should stop worshipping growth.

But Daly, along with many others has identified the most urgent step in fixing the world's economic problems as cutting unfettered growth. This demands limits on family size and allocating fixed stocks of manmade capital.

The world's population has outstripped the carrying capacity of the earth. Steady state economics requires that the population be stabilised at well below the natural carrying capacity, rather than at that level. This means that resources will be better utilised and lifestyles maintained at comfortable levels, rather than at low standards of living. The gathering of personal wealth needs to be limited to avoid over-consumption and waste that reduces the food and other goods and services available to the wider community.

In order to achieve the steady state, the following steps have been suggested to limit growth, stabilise populations and wind production back to a sustainable level:

  • Apply substantial taxes on fossil fuels, especially petrol – fossil fuels are finite and reliance on them can therefore only be temporary. There needs to be deterrents to using fossil fuels and incentives for finding alternative sources of energy.
  • Abolish subsidies encouraging fossil fuel use – fuel prices in many countries are subsidized, so that the price reflects neither the value, nor the finite nature of fossil fuels.
  • Price water to reflect scarcity and encourage conservation – over-consumption and wasteful use has resulted in scarcities of drinkable water in many countries, both developed and undeveloped, and the pollution of waterways.
  • Halt immigration – in developed countries the natural population is below the replacement rate and population growth comes largely from immigration. Halting immigration will mean that local populations will gradually decline naturally. It is also claimed that such a move would have global benefits as immigrants from poor nations living at even low standards of living in developed countries would consume more than they would in their own countries.
  • Eliminate subsidies to industrial agriculture – mass production of food, through crowding or excessive use of fertilisers are already revealing massive repercussions such as ‘mad cow’ disease, declining soil fertility, and pesticide contamination of soil, water and animals.
  • Abandon globalization – this concept completely challenges economic notions of free trade, as Daly argues that ‘by encouraging consumption of cheap imports and pressuring domestic producers to cut costs, makes it harder to set prices so as to reflect ecological costs’ and domestic markets need to be protected from cheaper imports to maintain sustainability.

Steady State economics challenges the view that a traditional ever-growing economy will lead to wide-spread global prosperity, including the preservation of the environment through the mechanisms of supply and demand.

Daly concluded that increasing global wealth will never raise the living standards of the poor, because the benefits of growth go to the owners of surplus, who are not poor. Furthermore the need for surplus will deplete all the natural resources and result in widespread economic destruction. With a steady state economic system the resources of the world can be maintained. The population would be stabilised, growth would be brought to an end and the economy would continue to draw on renewable resources but at completely sustainable levels.

Is superannuation just a con?

Any investment that relies on tax concessions to make it effective should be treated with great caution. And that's the main problem with superannuation. It's a great way of generating a huge financial pool with Governments, fund managers, investment advisers and merchant bankers skimming off the top – but Joe Blow citizen at the bottom of the pile has no guarantee that much will be left when he (or she) needs it. The industry spruiks about it's financial performanceas though it is something wonderful. However if you look at the figures it really only works if there is continual growth which is not going to happen.

In the end its an elaborate sham, a lottery in which there are many winners (such AS the fund mansgers) along the way. Some individuals enjoy the benefits when they finally retire but there will be many who don't receive anything like they expected. For them the gamble won't pay off!

For more on a "Steady State Economy" go to http://learningforsustainability.net/susdev/steadystate.php