Industry Feathers Its Own Nest with Misleading Free Range Logo
Humane Choice has taken an unprecedented stand in support of small free range producers nationally and today has shone the spotlight on the Australian egg industry’s peak industry body Australian Egg Corporation (Egg Corp) and the inequity of its Egg Corp Assured program. The industry owned quality assurance program is to come under scrutiny for its bias towards large producers and the misuse of their Egg Corp Assured Trademark.
“Egg Corp has taken advantage of producer and consumer confusion over standards, codes of practice, production definitions and accreditation logos for far too long,” stated Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice, Lee McCosker. “We have Codes of Practice in place for animal welfare and environmental management for free range egg production that make a very clear statement about what the acceptable stocking density is for free range hens and that is 1500 birds per hectare. Stocking rates are not ‘uncapped’ as Egg Corp would have us believe.”
Egg Corp administers the Egg Corp Assured program that licences producers to use their logo on egg cartons. The quality assurance program operates under a certification trademark and as such indicates to consumers that the eggs carrying that logo meet a particular standard. In this case, that producers meet the requirements of the Model Code of Practice for Animal Welfare – Domestic Poultry.
In recent media, Egg Corp have acknowledged that their audits have revealed free range stocking densities in excess of 50,000 birds per hectare.
Egg Corp is in breach of their own standards and rules of their quality assurance program and has allowed producers to misrepresent their product. Egg Corp have effectively licensed producers to deceive the public into believing that all eggs labelled free range and carrying the Egg Corp Assured logo act within the guidelines of the Code of Practice when this is generally not the case.
McCosker says that it is time to expose Egg Corp for its disregard for industry code of practice and the law and to put an end to the widespread mislabelling of free range eggs and to protect the genuine free range producer before the integrity of their industry is in tatters.
“Australian Egg Corporation needs to be held accountable for the part they have played in allowing this deception to happen and for government and regulators to acknowledge that industry is just not capable of self-regulation. The push to increase stocking rates to 20,000 birds per hectare needs to be brought to an abrupt halt. Given the performance of Egg Corp to date, we cannot trust them to enforce 1500 birds per hectare so what could we expect if it was increased to 20,000?”
The term free range is not up for grabs by the highest bidder or levy payer. The consumer has driven the demand for free range eggs and their expectations are not being met. Humane Choice has lodged an official complaint with ACCC about the deception that is being perpetrated by the Australian Egg Corporation.