Arguments rage as egg standards leave the cage

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th April 2016

ChickenNew mandatory standards for free-range eggs sold in Australia were announced by Australian Federal and State consumer affairs ministers in Canberra late-last week.

Egg producers will now be allowed to promote their eggs as ‘free range’ so long as they have no more than 10, 000 birds per hectare. The birds must also have ‘meaningful access’ to outdoor space. Furthermore, cartons must declare the number of birds per hectare.

CHOICE left unhappy with decision

Assembling a flock of dissatisfied lobbyists on this issue, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group CHOICE is telling consumers to boycott eggs advertised as being free range if they come from the higher volume 10, 000 bird per hectare farms.

According to CHOICE, eggs should be considered “free range only when there is 1, 500 birds per hectare as recommended by the CSIRO Model Code. CHOICE has announced that eggs which come from 10, 000 birds per hectare situations and are currently promoted as free range include Aldi’s private label Lodge Farm Free Range Eggs, Coles Free Range, Ecoeggs, Farm Pride Free Range, Pace Farm Free Range and Woolworths Free Range. A full list of all free range egg brands sold in Australian supermarkets and whether they come from farms of 10, 000 birds per hectare or not, is included in a CHOICE website page.

“These new rules fail the common sense test,” said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“All you need to do is look at egg cartons labelled free-range in any major supermarket to see how these products are marketed to Australians, with pictures of chickens outside,” he said.

“Eggs that come from hens that don’t go outside and have high stocking densities don’t meet consumers’ expectations and don’t deserve the free-range label. Because of this, we are calling on consumers to boycott bad eggs that have an outdoor stocking density of up to 10,000 hens per hectare,” Godfrey said.

Shane Rattenbury was the only minister who voted for CHOICE’s own recommended 1, 500 bird per hectare standard.