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29th May 2015 - HSI Action Alert - It's crunch time in the fight for a National Free Range Standard      

Action alert - it's crunch time in the fight for a national free range egg standard

It’s been a long, hard battle, but with your determination and persistence, together we can win!  On Friday 12th June 2015 the State Ministers for Fair Trading will be meeting to decide on a legal definition for ‘free range’ eggs and we want to make sure that they know exactly what you, the consumers, expect.

Our Truth in Labelling campaign began back in 2010 when industry decided they wanted to cash in on the increasing consumer demand for ethical produce.  Rather than produce what consumers expected from free range production, the big players instead moved the goal posts to redefine ‘free range’ to mirror their intensive systems.  The past 5 years have been a rollercoaster – although it seemed blatantly obvious that people expected eggs labelled ‘free range’ to come from hens that actually go outside, the major producers had other ideas.

In March 2011, HSI complained to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) about the Australian Egg Corporation Limited’s (AECL) application for a Certification Trademark, allowing them to increase the outdoor stocking density for layer hens from 1500 hens per hectare (as per the Model Code of Practice), to a staggering 20,000 per hectare!  The ACCC called for public submissions on the matter and listed the issue as one of their priorities.  In the meantime, we sent a series of complaints to the ACCC on individual egg producers and their false and misleading advertising, some of which have made it into the Federal Courts.  Their outcomes are imminent and will hopefully help the State Fair Trading Ministers arrive at an acceptable legislated standard.

In late 2013, HSI wrote to all Ministers attending the December Legislative and Governance forum of Consumer Affairs advising them of the issues and calling for a national free range definition, and finally they announced it was on their agenda for their next meeting, on 12th June.

You were a big part of this, having signed one of 40,000 individual post cards presented to Government, we got their attention!  Now we are asking you to do one more thing to help us get this over the line, protecting true free range producers and of course the stars of the show – the hens themselves!  This is a perfect opportunity for us to spell it out for these Ministers one last time, urging them to ensure that the new National Information Standard on free range eggs represents true free range production systems and truth in labelling.  Also, as the ACCC are so well versed on what consumers expectations of ‘free range’ are, we believe they should be at the table for these meetings, so we are asking the Ministers to include them in these discussions.

NSW Fair Trading is leading this project and say they will “work to enhance consumer confidence and certainty around egg labelling” – well then, this is what consumers want:

"Hens must have a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare, and they must be able to move about freely on an open range on every ordinary day.  Practices must be based on the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) ‘five freedoms’ of animal welfare."

ACTION:  Please click here today to send an instant message to the Fair Trading Minister in your State, letting them know your expectations of true free range.  We have provided our suggested text to help you, but do feel free to add your own comments or tailor it as you wish.

This is such a critical point in this campaign, so on behalf of all the hens and the true free range producers we thank you once again for your amazing support!

Warm wishes,

Verna Simpson

Director, Humane Society International

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