Consumers flood the ACCC with support for true free range
Today Humane Society International has delivered a huge blow to the Australian Egg Corporation’s (AEC) plans to take control of the free range egg industry for the bigger players in the industry.
Today 30,000 individual postcards have been delivered to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) in protest of AEC’s planned changes to the way free range eggs are produced. Consumers have expressed dismay at the Egg Corporation’s exploitation of the industry 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 over this issue. AEC have underrated their consumer. They have attempted to take advantage of the consumers limited knowledge of egg production systems and have failed to sell them this lie, a lie that would have seen multi-storey and overcrowded monster production facilities labelled their eggs as free range” said Lee McCosker.
What makes these cards so important is that they have been distributed in certified free range egg cartons to the very consumers who will be duped if AEC were allowed to brand their intensive systems free range. The overwhelming response verifies that free range egg buyers believe that 20,000 hens per hectare and systems that restrict or discourage outdoor access do not meet their expectations of free range.
Humane Society International 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 will hopefully spell the demise of any attempts to intensify free range. In their damning report the ACCC says it believes the Rules may mislead or deceive consumers.
We are confident that the 30,000 postcards we are sending today will convince the ACCC to deny AEC’s application for a Certification Trademark that would undermine consumer confidence in free range product.
We would like to be able to say that when this decision becomes final consumers will be able to buy free range eggs with confidence, but unfortunately this is only the first battle. The supermarkets are waiting in the wings to roll out their own branded free range that will fall far short of consumer expectation and there will be nothing to stop AEC continuing on their deceptive path. They will still be able to call their high density eggs free range, just without a certification trademark.
That is why 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.
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 this coming into the next Federal election and will be aiming to present the Prime Minister with over 100,000 personal postcards to help her understand the level of discontent.