Trademark rejection now shows need for official national standard
CHOICE welcomes the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s decision to reject the Australian Egg Corporation Limited’s (AECL) proposed maximum of 20,000 birds per hectare for free range eggs.
The ACCC said the AECL’s proposed maximum, which is 13 times greater than accepted limits, was likely to mislead consumers about eggs labelled ‘free range.’¹
“Consumers told CHOICE that 20,000 birds per hectare is simply not what they expect from free-range eggs and today the ACCC has recognised that,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.
In May 2012 a CHOICE survey found that less than 1% of 900 respondents think the egg industry’s proposed free-range egg standard meets their expectations of what free range means.
CHOICE’s survey also showed that buying free range eggs is essential or important to 85% of respondents, with close to half relying solely on the words ‘free range’ when choosing eggs.²
“The ACCC’s decision sends a clear message to the AECL that its attempt to set a stocking density that bears no relation to consumer expectation or existing definitions is not ok,” says Ms Just.
“The decision should also serve as a warning to those companies which, according to the AECL, use stocking densities up to 100,000 birds per hectare for eggs labelled free range.”
“CHOICE believes that now, more than ever, we need an official, national free-range standard so Australians can have confidence they are getting what they pay for when they buy free range eggs.”
“People are clearly paying a premium for these eggs, yet their expectations of contented clucking chooks roaming around open green pastures aren’t always reality,” says Ms Just.
More than 3000 people signed an open letter voicing their concerns about the AECL’s proposed stocking density.³
Free range-eggs make up almost 40% of eggs sold and are the fastest growing category within egg sales.⁴
Read the CHOICE report and survey findings into free range.
Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669
¹ The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, which is voluntary, sets a maximum outdoor stocking density for free range eggs of 1,500 birds per hectare. Queensland is the only state which has legislated this limit , while the ACT has regulations around labelling. Legislation capping stocking densities has been introduced by opposition parties in NSW and South Australia.
There are a number of voluntary certification schemes with different maximum stocking densities. For example:
- Free Range Farmers Association (Vic) – 750 birds per hectare
- Australian Certified Organic – 1,000 birds per hectare
- Humane Choice – 1,500 birds per hectare
- RSPCA – 1,500 birds per hectare up to 2,500 on application with rotation of the outdoor range
² Survey undertaken in April, 2012; 60% said it’s essential the eggs they buy are free range while a further 25% said its important. 43% rely solely on the words ‘free range’ on the pack to assure them a product is free range.
Other findings included:
- 93% said they have purchased a free-range product in the previous 12 months;
- Two-thirds expect that ‘free range’ eggs mean hens have freedom to move around and access the outdoors; and
- Over half said they are willing to pay $3-$5 more per dozen for free range rather than cage eggs
- While the majority said they didn’t know what the maximum should be, nearly 30% said a cap of 1,500 or less was reasonable
⁴ Retail World Grocery Guide 2012