major australian egg producer faces court for deceiving consumers
One of Australia’s largest egg producers faces the Federal Court today, attempting to fight charges made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Humane Society International (HSI) first became aware of Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd, who trade as Swan Valley Egg Farm and Eggs by Ellah, and their produce in 2011 and submitted a formal complaint to the ACCC in early 2012. HSI’s investigations revealed that Swan Valley may have been falsely labelling their eggs as ‘free range’. Subsequent to this, WA newspaper revealed evidence of cruel and unsanitary conditions impacting thousands of hens.
Humane Society International Director Verna Simpson said today that, “Our complaint to the ACCC three years ago highlighted major breaches by Snowdale Holdings. They have been charged with misrepresenting the term ‘free range’ and duping the Australian public for years. As one of the major suppliers to both the major supermarkets in WA the scale of this deception if proven is mind boggling.”
Meanwhile, despite HSI’s attempts to urge them to drop Western Australia’s largest egg supplier, supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have ignored the evidence and continue to sell the contentious produce in their stores. Reportedly the ACCC claims that Perth-based Snowdale sold 71 per cent of its eggs as ‘free range’ from 2012-2013, charging consumers a premium for them.
HSI Director Ms Simpson continued, “ACCC evidence shows that Snowdale squeezed more than 100 times the recommended number of laying hens into its barns – the Model Code recommends 1,500 hens per hectare under animal welfare guidelines for free-range eggs, whilst Snowdale stocked up to 165,441 hens per hectare in one of its barns.”
Ms Simpson concluded, “Swan Valley Eggs proprietor Barry Cocking also gathered support from Liberal backbencher and former vet Chris Back, as well as WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle. Given the body of evidence why would they go out on a limb for Mr Cocking? That is definitely a question for Parliament. The Court Case is proceeding so Mr Cocking now has a case to answer. NSW egg producer Pirovic was fined $300,000 last year when they lost a similar ACCC case.”