01.Free range egg labelling website
The New South Wales Government has launched a website to inform consumers about egg labelling.
The website provides information about the various independent, voluntary certification logos that appear on some eggs marketed as free range.
However, CHOICE believes the website gives consumers little help due to the controversial interpretation of the existing definition of 'free-range eggs'.
What does this mean for consumers?
The problem with the NSW government’s new consumer information website is that the information is based on this dubious interpretation of the Model Code (see Disagreement over definition below).
This allows the certification standards to be listed as complying with the Model Code, even though some allow more than 1500 birds per hectare.
Visitors to the site must elect to expand the information about certification systems to see the detail on maximum stocking densities.
CHOICE asked the NSW Government to at least acknowledge the alternative interpretation of the Model Code definition of free range eggs on its new website to provide consumers balanced information. They declined to do so, meaning the website is of limited use to consumers seeking to make an informed decision about buying free range eggs.
Disagreement over definition
The information is based on the Government’s controversial interpretation of the only national definition of free range eggs. At issue is whether the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry sets a maximum number of birds allowed on the outside range of 1500 birds per hectare.
The Queensland government believes the Model Code sets a maximum of 1500 and has had legislation requiring free range egg suppliers to meet this definition for nearly ten years. This is also the interpretation of many animal welfare advocates.
The NSW government, in contrast, believes the maximum only applies to egg suppliers that don’t rotate flocks. This interpretation is supported by the Australian Egg Corporation, which has been a key player in the NSW Government’s Egg Labelling Forum.
What CHOICE wants
CHOICE has been calling for the development of an agreed national standard on free range eggs based on independent animal welfare evidence.
The latest effort by the NSW Government shows that a standard is essential so that consumers buy free range eggs can be confident they are getting what they pay for.
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