ACCC calls for comment on controversial egg standard
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) has called for public comment on the proposed Egg Standard Australia, the controversial industry standard that would allow increases to the stocking densities of free range layer hens in Australia.
The Australian Egg Corporation, which represents commercial egg producers in Australia, has made an application to register a certification trade mark. The application includes amendments to the Farm Standards for Egg Producers.
The Australian Egg Corporation’s proposed new standard would allow an increase in stocking density for layer hens to 20,000 birds per hectare.
The current Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals only allows for a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare (but states “any higher bird density is acceptable only where regular rotation of birds onto fresh range areas occurs and close management is undertaken which provides some continuing fodder cover”).
In summary, the proposed standards:
• will cover on-farm practices relating to the rearing of pullets (where layer chicks are purchased and reared until they are dispatched to egg laying facilities), and the production of eggs from laying hens (including caged eggs, barn-laid eggs, free range eggs and specialist eggs).
• address food safety, biosecurity, animal welfare, product labelling (grading and packaging) and environmental management.
• are intended to meet, and in sorne aspects supersede, current international egg standards.
Stocking density proposal faces criticism
The AECL’s call to lift the cap on stocking densities has previously been met with criticism from the Free Range Farmers Association (FRFA), a not-for-profit group of commercial egg farmers operating in the State of Victoria.
The FRFA promotes a stocking density limit of 750 hens per hectare for eggs to qualify as “free range”.
Likewise, a media statement from lobby group Humane Choice said, “It appears the intention of the AECL was to present a standard to the ACCC that suited the larger industrialized producers while seriously marginalizing the genuine free range farmer. We can only trust that the ACCC has recognised this and also acknowledged that the consumer will disadvantaged if this standard were to ever make it into the marketplace.”
Submissions to the ACCC are required by 20th June 2012 and can be lodged by email to email@example.com
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