Consumer group CHOICE and the Greens held a breakfast barbecue today (Wednesday) to highlight the need for a national enforceable defition of free range eggs.
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury tucked into free range eggs to highlight the need for a national mandatory standard definition of free range eggs.
Mr Rattenbury, who is also the ACT Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs, backed the national campaign to ensure eggs that are labelled “free range” are produced in line with consumer expectations.
“There is high consumer demand for free-range eggs, but consumers want to be sure that the eggs they are buying are from hens that are actually kept in humane conditions,” said Mr Rattenbury.
“While there is a voluntary Model Code of Practice for free range egg production that defines the maximum number of hens per hectare, there is no national legislated definition.
“Many companies that use a free range label have much larger numbers of hens per hectare and would not meet consumer expectations of what they would consider free range.
The ACT Eggs (Labelling and Sale) Act 2001 places obligations on ACT retailers to sell eggs labelled in packaging that accurately describes the production methods.
The ACT law relies on the Model Code of Practice that recommends 1500 birds per hectare for a free range egg production facility. But the Model Code also permits a higher bird density of up to 10,000 hens per hectare, if the birds are routinely rotated onto fresh range.
“Without a clear, national standard definition of “free range”, consumers are being confused and misled,” said Mr Rattenbury.
“According to CHOICE, free range egg sales hold 39% of the market, which clearly demonstrates that consumers want better animal welfare standards from our food producers and clear and accurate information.
“Consumers are choosing free range eggs because they believe that the product is in line with their expectations. Many would be shocked to realise that this is in fact, not the case at all.
“I will be meeting with National, State and Territory Consumer Affairs Ministers later this month where I will be calling on all jurisdictions to support a consistent national approach to the definition of “free range”,” said Mr Rattenbury.