HSI Pushes Prime Minister to Legislate National ‘Free Range’ Standard
Australian consumers and free range egg farming families have had enough. The farcical free range egg debate has gone on too long and they want action now.
On Thursday 40,000 individual postcards will be delivered to the door of our Prime Minister in protest to industry and state government’s indifference to the continued mislabelling of free range eggs. Consumers have continually expressed dismay at the Egg Corporation’s exploitation of the trade as well as Coles and Woolworths Supermarkets attempts to control the industry for their own gain, and have demanded that stocking densities for free range hens be capped at 1,500 per hectare.
“Never before have we witnessed consumer outrage on the scale that has been brought before the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), the media and motivated so many into action. Coles, Woolworths and the egg industry peak body Australian Egg Corporation (AEC) have underrated their consumer. They have attempted to take advantage of the consumer’s limited knowledge of egg production systems while toying with their concerns for hen welfare and reaping a premium for mislabelled eggs.” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice.
What makes these postcards so important is that they have been distributed in certified free range egg cartons to the very consumers who will be duped, if our government does not step in now, and end the farce that is for sale on most supermarket shelves today.
The overwhelming response verifies that free range egg buyers believe that the intensification of free range and systems that restrict or discourage outdoor access, do not meet their expectations of free range.
“We will not have greedy supermarkets dictate conditions that free range hens will be farmed under, and standards that are not underpinned by science or acknowledgement of the consumers understanding of the term free range,” McCosker said. “There is much more at stake here than a simple descriptor on a carton. The term free range has implications for hen welfare, the sustainability of our Australian family farms, as well as what it means to the consumers who pay a premium for those eggs.”
Humane Society International (HSI) began this campaign for truth in labelling of free range eggs when we first alerted the ACCC to concerns about the proposed AEC Egg Standard Australia in March 2011, and lodged a complaint requesting that the Certification Trademark before them be denied. Eighteen months of investigations and interviews resulted in the ACCC issuing its scathing initial assessment that resulted in a damning report from the ACCC and a statement that the Commission believes the rules of the proposed standard may mislead or deceive consumers about the nature of eggs described as free range.
We are urging the Federal Government to take control of this situation. They need to legislate a national standard for free range that will protect the consumer and the free range farmer. AEC has demonstrated that it is out of touch with both the consumers and the true free range producers and cannot be trusted. Every move they have made in this debate has been to increase the profits of the large intensive egg producers, the very agricultural industrialists who sit on the Board of AEC, and to bow to the pressure from the big two supermarkets.
It is time for the Federal Government to take the reins. Allowing industry to self-regulate has been an absolute disaster. We will be garnering support for such a national standard in the lead-up to the Federal election, and we hope that the postcards we present the Prime Minister on Thursday will help her understand the high level of discontent.
“There is a very simple solution. Call these intensively produced eggs something else and leave the term free range to the producers who have spent their lives creating this market” added McCosker.