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The good egg hunt

CHOICE is calling on consumers to get cracking this Easter and join the good egg hunt to find genuine free range eggs.

06 April 2017

CHOICE is launching a national free range egg hunt in a bid to stop consumers being ripped off by the major supermarkets across the country as they fall victim to misleading pack claims costing up to $43 million a year.[1] 

"When you are paying a significant price premium for free range eggs, you need certainty that you are getting what you paid for so it's time to get cracking and start scanning egg cartons," says CHOICE spokesperson, Tom Godfrey. 

"We're asking consumers to download the newly updated and free CluckAR  app, scan cartons and mark the location in the app when they find genuine free range eggs. 

"The golden eggs are out there and by marking the store location when you find them, you'll be helping all consumers avoid this multi-million dollar rip-off.

CHOICE launched a boycott of fake "free range" eggs and its CluckAR app 12 months ago in the wake of Consumer Affairs ministers' disappointing decision to sign off on a national standard for free range eggs that has no requirement for hens to actually go outside.

"The sad fact is the draft national standard seeks to change the definition for free range eggs to suit the needs of industrial egg producers," Mr Godfrey says.    

"It's time for consumers to end this rip-off once and for all and at the same time reward genuine free range farmers who have invested in production systems that better reflect consumers' expectations of what free range actually is.

The Model Code of Practice[2] limits outdoor stocking density at 1500 hens per hectare, however the national standard lifts this cap to 10,000 birds per hectare – more than six times the current maximum. 

"Packing hens into sheds or cramming them into small paddocks is a long way from consumers' expectations when they think of free range. 

To date, more than 50,000 consumers have voted with their smartphones, with over 2600 scans being completed every day and a staggering 819,000 egg cartons scanned since the app was launched.

"The popularity of our augmented reality app, CluckAR, demonstrates that the current free range egg labelling does not provide sufficient information for consumers to make an informed decision. 

"Consumers should have confidence that the term 'free range' reflects their reasonable expectation that hens spend time outside, have room to move inside and out, and that farmers employ animal welfare practices.[3]

"Given the draft standard fails to deliver for consumers, we will maintain our boycott of 19 supermarket free range egg brands."[4]

CHOICE continues to urge Treasury to incorporate the outlined recommendations into the proposed standard. 

Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

CHOICE's proposed free range standard

CHOICE recommends that: 

  • To satisfy the definition 'meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range' in the information standard, there is a requirement that hens are regularly on an outdoor range.
  • Producers meet further indoor and outdoor conditions in order to label their eggs free range, including requirements for low indoor hen stocking densities, internal architecture that encourages hens to access the range, sufficient openings and an outdoor range that provides adequate shelter.
  • That the exceptions in the information standard are tightened to ensure they can only be relied upon for a limited number of days in extraordinary circumstances.
  • There should be a maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare for eggs to be labelled free range.
  • If the final standard allows maximum stocking densities above 1500 birds per hectare, then stocking density should be displayed on a scale from 1 to 10,000 hens per hectare so consumers can truly compare free range egg products.
  • They can also tell those ministers who voted for a bad standard that they're boycotting bad eggs: www.choice.com.au/freerange.
  • If consumers don't have the app, they can continue to identify bad eggs using CHOICE's buying guide.

CHOICE research

CHOICE's research has shown that 213 million eggs were sold as free range in 2014 that didn't meet consumers' expectations.[5] The Consumer Affairs Ministers' decision means that consumers could be paying a premium of between $21 million and $43 million per year for eggs labelled "free range" that don't live up to the claim.[6]

[1] Free Range Egg Labelling Consultation Paper, 2016

[2] The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry (the Model Code) states that free range eggs should be produced by hens where there is a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare.

[3] CHOICE, 2015, Submission to Consumer Affairs on Free Range Egg Labelling

[4] https://www.choice.com.au/about-us/media-releases/2016/march/choice-calls-for-consumer-boycott-after-free-range-decision

[5] Free range Eggs: Making the Claim Meaningful, 2015: https://www.choice.com.au//-/media/619b60e5a1f04b2191d09fd9dab4c72e.ashx

[6] Free Range Egg Labelling Consultation Paper, 2016