South Australian Government ‘disappointed’ by changes to Queensland ‘free range’ egg standard

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 24th July 2013

The South Australian Government has expressed disappointment in changes made by the Queensland Liberal Government to that State’s industry standard for ‘free range’ eggs, saying the changes have “left consumers exposed”.

South Australian Deputy Premier and Minister for Business Services and Consumers John Rau said the Queensland Government had increased its cap on the number of hens per hectare for free range eggs from 1,500 to 10,000.

“When people see the words ‘free range’ on their eggs, those eggs should come from a property that reflects the consumers’ expectations,” Mr Rau said.

“Queensland has decided to cast the ‘free range’ definition broadly, meaning that consumers are the losers,” Mr Rau said. “If you buy Queensland ‘free range’ egg, it might be from a farm that has 900 hens per hectare, or it might have 9,000,” he said.

Kangaroo Island ‘free range’ egg producer Tom Fryar said the changes made by the Queensland Government were disappointing.

“Ten thousand hens per hectare should be labelled ‘barn yard’ or ‘cage free’ eggs,” Mr Fryar said. “Leave the words ‘free range’ to true free range farmers who run at a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare,” he said.

CHOICE says ‘free range’ standards “undermined” by changes

Consumer group CHOICE has said it is also displeased by the change to Queensland’s ‘free range’ egg standards, and has started a campaign protesting the changes.

“Consumers have shown they are willing to pay a premium for ‘free range’ eggs and yet changes like this make the term meaningless,” said Matt Levey, CHOICE Director of Communications. “This latest move by the Queensland Government has jeopardised consumers’ ability to make informed purchasing decisions,” he said.

South Australia proposing ‘free range’ egg standard for State

Australian Food News reported in June 2013 that the South Australian Government was taking submissions on a proposal to establish a standard in the State for eggs labelled ‘free range’.

“We are seeking to introduce a South Australian standard that will mean if you buy a South Australian free range egg, the most number of hens per hectare will be 1,500. This is true ‘free range’ as far as we are concerned,” Mr Rau said.

Mr Rau said that consultation on the South Australian Government’s discussion paper has now closed and the Government is considering the submissions.

“It has been important to hear from industry and the public about our proposed free range standard. It has strong support and I hope to be announcing the next steps in supporting our free range egg producers in the very near future,” Mr Rau said.

History of ‘free range’ egg definition

The definition of ‘free range’ eggs has been a contentious issue in Australia for some time. Australian Food News reported in March 2013 that supermarket group Coles’ proposed ‘free range’ standards for eggs would allow up to 10,000 birds per hectare, nearly seven times the number allowed under the voluntary guidelines. In November 2012, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissionrejected the first version of a certification standard proposal by the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL), saying that the AECL’s then-proposed 20,000 birds per hectare standard would be “misleading”.

Queensland has changed its 'free range' eggs definition