The Australian Egg Corporation (AECL) is pleased to announce the release of Egg Standards of Australia (ESA) – for Rearing and Layer Farms. ESA is a voluntary quality assurance program that has been developed through an extensive consultation process with egg farmers to provide a practical mechanism to demonstrate compliance with egg production standards.
ESA replaces the current industry scheme, Egg Corp Assured (ECA), providing greater clarity and a more robust set of compliance standards that have been independently reviewed against current Australian customer and regulatory requirements.
ESA has been developed to provide a compliance framework for egg farmers in meeting the needs of regulators, retailers, farmers and egg buyers in areas including hen welfare, egg quality, biosecurity, food safety, work health and safety and environmental management.
ESA is structured into three levels to enable egg farmers to join the program at the level that best suits their business needs and customer requirements.
Level 1 – Basic: An entry level for egg farmers who are new to the egg industry or who have not previously participated in a quality assurance program. Egg farms certified at this level are audited to Level 1 compliance criteria.
Level 2 – Core: An intermediate level suited to egg farmers with a more developed compliance system and record keeping procedures. Egg farms certified at this level must be audited against both Level 1 and Level 2 compliance criteria.
Level 3 – Comprehensive: An advanced level suited to egg farmers with a fully developed compliance system and record keeping procedures, to meet the requirements of major retail customers. Egg farms certified at this level must be audited against all three levels of compliance criteria.
The structure is aimed at encouraging broad industry participation and improved compliance outcomes as egg farmers transition through Level 1 and Level 2 over a two year period.
There is no cost for an egg business to join the ESA program and access ESA resources. Once a business has implemented ESA and seeks certification, an annual $55.00 certification fee will be charged for each site. Egg farmers will also need to meet the actual cost of the annual compliance audit for each site.
Egg farmers will have a choice of four certification bodies to conduct their ESA audit. All ESA approved auditors have the appropriate qualifications and experience to conduct egg production audits. The consistency of audit process is closely monitored.
Unannounced audits may be conducted under ESA, where a formal complaint has been made and AECL considers an audit is justified in order to maintain the integrity of the program. Under such circumstances, AECL will meet the full cost of the audit cost.
The ESA program will continue to be administered by Scheme Support Services (SSS).
Egg farmers will have access to ESA resources from early April 2017. Those currently participating in the ECA program have until 31st December to transition to the new standard. In the transition period an egg farm can nominate to be audited to either ECA or ESA. All audits undertaken after 31st December 2017 will be to ESA.
Training and implementation support for ESA is available through both AECL farm services and through private consultants. Further information on available support and resources is available from both AECL and SSS.
The existing ECA Grading and Packing Standard remains current. A consultative review of the ECA Grading and Packing standard will be undertaken in the coming months, with the intention of releasing the ESA Grading and Packing Standard in late 2017.
A review of ESA will be undertaken in 2018 to consider feedback from program participants. ESA will also incorporate regulatory developments including the new information standard for free range egg farming and the outcome of the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.
Information on ESA can be accessed by contacting Scheme Support Services on 1300 265 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org, by visiting the AECL farmer login page at www.aecl.org or by contacting AECL on 02 9409 6999 or email@example.com.