You can't make a standard without breaking some eggs
CHOICE calls for boundaries around use of ‘free range’ label
CHOICE says consumers deserve a fair, open and honest definition of free range products, be they eggs or beef, through proper consultation with all stakeholders.
The consumer group has renewed its calls for an Australian Standard on free range products through Standards Australia and involving industry, government and consumers.
“There are at present too many foods being sold at a premium by calling themselves free range when there is no common or enforceable standard to ensure the animals have been anywhere near a paddock let alone a blade of grass,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.
CHOICE challenges the Egg Corporation’s proposed draft standard which would permit densities of 20,000 birds per hectare to be certified as free range as fanciful and self-serving.
CHOICE says an agreed standard must reflect both the reasonable expectations of those consumers willing to pay extra for eggs labelled free range and the advice of animal welfare experts. For example:
• The RSPCA’s Approved Farming Scheme Standards allow maximums between 1500 and 2500 birds per hectare for eggs to be certified free range; (1)
• The Free Range Egg and Poultry Association Incorporated sets a maximum stocking density of 750 birds for its certification; (2) and
• The Primary Industries Standing Committee’s Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, which is not mandatory, sets the maximum stocking density for layer hens at 1500 birds per hectare. (3)
CHOICE says animal welfare is a major concern for those who choose to pay a premium for free range eggs and the Egg Corporation’s proposed standard of 20,000 birds per hectare fails consumers’ reasonable expectations.
“There is no official standard for free range products. This means that consumers are at risk of being misled by businesses wanting to cash in on the premium that a free-range product attracts,” says Ms Just.
CHOICE calls on the egg industry to work through Standards Australia and in consultation with stakeholders to introduce a free range standard that is supported by animal welfare experts and meets consumer expectations.
• Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669