SOUTH AUSTRALIANS DESPERATE TO CRACK FREE RANGE EGG LEGISLATION
Last month 18,000 postcards signed by South Australians determined to endorse truth in labelling for eggs marked ‘free range’ were presented to Minister for Business Services and Consumers John Rau, at a Humane Choice Breakfast in Adelaide. Minister Rau’s industry code would only allow eggs produced by farms stocking a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare to be labelled “South Australian Free Range”. This would certainly be a step towards improved clarity for South Australian egg consumers, however, as the code is voluntary many eggs would still be marked ‘free range’ but allow significantly lower animal welfare standards. Without a stringent education campaign for consumers, this could still cause much confusion.
Meanwhile, South Australians remain strong willed about this important issue. They have been bolstered by overwhelming support from all parties within the South Australian Parliament. Humane Society International (HSI) believes that their wholehearted unity deserves better recognition than just a voluntary code, and instead the South Australian government should commit to a long term solution supporting the Green’s Egg Labelling Bill, offering all South Australian consumers true clarity and a mandatory legislative approach to define ‘free range’ eggs once and for all.
Some may argue that a mandatory code would conflict with the ability of other states to sell eggs into South Australia, but in fact there would be no burden imposed on interstate businesses. Mandatory legislation would instead ensure that any eggs marked ‘free range’ would have to meet the South Australian definition of the term. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have also shown their support for this issue, and earlier this year ACCC chief Rod Simms named free-range egg labelling as a 2013 priority.
HSI Director Verna Simpson commented, “It’s simple - if you label any egg ‘free range’ and it’s produced in a system stocking more than 1,500 hens per hectare, then you are clearly misleading your consumers.” Legislation in South Australia would provide a huge advantage to consumers making it easy for them to distinguish true free range eggs, knowing that if they choose to pay a premium for higher welfare practices, they will finally have a guarantee of purchasing genuine ‘free range’ eggs. Ms Simpson continues, “This important issue should not be used as a political football. South Australians have made it perfectly clear that they want honesty and promises made by all parties to bring clarity to free range egg labelling must be upheld now.”