Egg farmers will have to meet stricter requirements if they wish to label their eggs “free range” following ACCC crackdown on misleading packaging.
Between 2015 and 2017 the ACCC brought three cases against egg producers for misleading customers about free-range eggs resulting in significant penalties.
In 2015 Darling Downs Fresh Eggs were fined $250,000 after admitting their "free range" hens were locked inside a barn. In 2016, Derodi Pty Ltd and Holland Farms Pty Ltd – who together sold Ecoeggs, Port Stephens and Field Fresh brand eggs – were fined $300,000 for misleading customers about the conditions their laying chickens were kept in. And in 2017, Western Australian company Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd were fined $750,000 for marketing their Eggs by Ellah, Swan Valley Free Range and Wanneroo Free Range brand eggs as 'free range' when the conditions at the farms prevented the chickens from easily accessing the outdoors.
Now, in order to be able to print ‘free range’ on packaging, Australian egg farmers need to ensure that their chickens spend “meaningful and regular” time roaming and foraging in an outdoor range during the day.
Farmers must also keep fewer than 10,000 chickens per hectare, and declare their stock density on egg cartons. Notably, this figure is still drastically higher than the CSIRO’s Model Code of Practice for free range chickens which recommends a maximum of 1500 birds per hectare.
The ACCC has indicated that if egg producers use images, pictures, or words, other than ‘free range’, that imply their eggs are free range when they are not then they would be at risk of breaching Australian Consumer Law.
A spokesperson for Australian Eggs, a not-for-profit and member-owned organisation that supports Australian egg farmers, says the new guidelines were necessary and welcome.
‘The new standard is important for consumers because it provides a strict definition of free range eggs,’ they said.
‘When consumers purchase something labelled as free range they want to know it’s been produced the way they think it has.’
If you’re interested in seeking out truly free range eggs, choice.com.au have compiled a list and also created the CluckAR app to help customers find brands who comply with the CSIRO Model Code of Practice for free range eggs.
Recovering caffeine-addict and serial bruncher Eliza Murray feels most at home typing away in a cozy cafe with her re-mortgaged avocado toast nearby. When she isn't reporting on the latest Instagram-shattering glittery food trends, she can be found experimenting with new gin garnishes (hello strawberries!) or biting into an entire wheel of brie (no shame). She tweets @theothereliza