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CHOICE welcomes ACCC free range crackdown

Regulator lets fly at free-range rip-offs

10 December 2014

CHOICE has welcomed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) decision to pursue two egg producers for misleading ‘free-range’ claims. 

The ACCC is alleging that the two companies (Pirovic Enterprises in NSW and Snowdale Holdings in WA) misled consumers by suggesting the eggs were produced in free-range conditions when in fact the hens were not able to move around freely on outdoor ranges.

“The ACCC’s announcement confirms what CHOICE has long feared – that in the absence of an enforceable national standard, some free-range claims are not all they’re cracked up to be,” says CHOICE Campaigns Manager Angela Cartwright.
 
“Consumers are confronted with cartons awash with images of solitary chooks standing in sunlit pastures, but there’s no guarantee you’re getting what you pay for.”
 
“The ACCC’s crackdown on dodgy free-range claims shows exactly why consumers paying a premium for supposedly free-range eggs need a consistent and enforceable standard governing the use of free-range claims.”

The news follows NSW Fair Trading’s announcement on Saturday that it would push for a national and enforceable free-range egg standard to prevent consumers being misled by dodgy free-range claims. 

The move came  in response to CHOICE’s super complaint which provided evidence that dodgy free-range egg claims are leading to major rip-offs, with these products costing up to twice as much as cage eggs despite the wide variation in how they are produced.

Scrambled stocking densities: 
  • The National Model Code of Practice for the welfare of animals defines “free-range” using a stocking density of no more than 1,500 birds per hectare but is not enforceable. 
  • The Australian Egg Corporation was pushing for a stocking density of 20,000 birds per hectare, 13 times the Model Code limit. This was rejected by the ACCC in its initial assessment on the grounds it may mislead consumers.
  • Major retailers Coles and Woolworths have announced stocking densities of 10,000 birds per hectare, nearly 7 times the Model Code limit.
  • Earlier this year Queensland dropped its legislated free-range stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare in favour of 10,000 birds per hectare. Over 7,400 consumers signed CHOICE’s petition opposing this move.
  • South Australia has announced a voluntary code that will certify as free-range eggs with a maximum stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare.
  • In August 2013, CHOICE lodged its free-range super complaint with NSW Fair Trading.
  • In October 2013, CHOICE gave a Shonky Award to ecoeggs for what was then their declared stocking density of 20,000 birds per hectare.
free range egg costs

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