01.Free range egg standards back in the spotlight
Feathers flying over free range
Free range egg standards are back in the spotlight with the Australian Egg Corporation announcing it would implement a 13 fold increase maximum hen stocking densities by the end of April.
The Egg Corporation proposed increasing the stocking densities for free range eggs from 1,500 birds per hectare, as currently suggested under the national Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, to 20,000 birds per hectare in 2011.
This latest announcement follows a busy couple of weeks in this area, with the RSPCA and Animals Australia launching campaigns against cage eggs. In addition, a free range labelling bill has been introduced in South Australia that would set a limit of 1,500 birds per hectare.
The Egg Corporation has suggested that a standard below 20,000 birds per hectare would result in the importation of eggs from Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines. It has also claimed that a stocking density below 20,000 birds per hectare could increase free range egg prices to up to $12.80 per dozen.
CHOICE is calling for the Egg Corporation to substantiate these projections given the backdrop of consumer concern and confusion.
Consumer demand for free range eggs
Free range eggs make up a large proportion of eggs sold in Australia, at nearly 40%, and this number is likely to grow as free range eggs experienced the most growth in that category in the past year.
What CHOICE wants
CHOICE has been campaigning for a national standard for products marketed as free range. We think that consumers paying a premium for eggs labelled free range should be able to have confidence that they are getting what they pay for.
In the absence of a national standard, shoppers have little way of knowing which products meet their expectations.
CHOICE is therefore calling on the Egg Corporation to rethink its plans to increase stocking densities and instead work with animal welfare experts, government and consumer representatives to develop a free range standard that would give consumers confidence that they are getting what they pay for when they buy free range eggs.
This just in
CHOICE was denied its request to attend a meeting convened by the NSW Government today to consider free range labelling standards.
CHOICE is concerned that there is no consumer representation in this process and we hope to have the opportunity attend any future meetings.