Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Free Range - the legal definition

At last in Australia we now have a legal definition what the term 'free range' means, thank to the ACCC and the Federal Court.
Here are details which we will publishing as a flier available at the Farmers' Masrkets we attend.

The Federal Court found that by labelling and promoting eggs as ‘free range’, a NSW egg company Pirovic Enterprises represented to consumers that the eggs were produced by hens which were able to move about freely on an open range each day, and that most of the hens did so on most days. Pirovic admitted, most of its hens did not move about freely on an open range on most days.

The Court found that the eggs supplied by Pirovic were produced by hens, most of which did not move about on an open range because of a combination of factors:

  • the stocking densities inside the barns where the hens were housed;
  • the flock sizes inside those barns; and
  • the number, size and placement and operation of the physical openings to the open range.

This decision provides clear guidance that any free range egg claim must be backed by farming conditions and practices implemented by suppliers under which hens actually move about on an open range each day.

The ACCC and Pirovic agreed on joint submissions and proposed orders put to the Court. That resulted in fines of $300,000 plus costs to be paid by Pirovic for misleading consumers.

The court found that there are a number of farming conditions that impact on whether hens move freely on an open range each day. The conditions vary between producers and no single conditionis conclusive. The relevant conditions include:

  • the internal stocking density of sheds;
  • the conditions of the internal areas the hens are housed in;
  • the number, size and location of any openings to an outdoor area;
  • the time of the day and how regularly the openings are opened;
  • the size and condition of the outdoor area, including any shaded areas, the presence of food, water and different vegetation and ground conditions;
  • the stocking density of any outdoor area; and
  • whether the hens have been trained or conditioned to remain indoors.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Egg Farmer of the Year could have been embarrasing

The Kondinin Group's Egg Farmer of the Year Award could have been embarrasing with the Federal Court finding on the definition of free range and the hefty fine handed out to a NSW egg producer. The ACCC could have just as easily launched action against any of the major egg producers in this countrry who claim that their products are 'free range' - including the Tasmanian business to which ther award was given.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

At last a legal definition for 'free range'

The timing of the Federal Court decision against Pirovic Enterprises couldn't have been better. It provides a clear 'free range' definition for the industry to adopt and it will strengthen the resolve of State Ministers for Fair Trading when they next meet in April to approve a production code.
The Australian Egg Corportion's annual meting is in Canberra on November 19 and 20 and  staff from  the NSW Department of Fair Trading have been invited to a consulatative forum
The NSW Department of Fair Trading was tasked by the Ministerial Council of Fair Trading/Consumer Affairs to draft a national information standard on free range eggs and minimum labelling requirements for egg labelling.
The egg industry is also meeting in October to consider ideas for changes to the Model Code of Practice for the welfare of Poultry.  The big boys will have to modify their ideas in the light of the Federal Court decision. A specific legal decision is something we have been fighting for. Without it consumers would continue to be conned - and it's not just the ultra-large corporations. None of the so-called free range accreditation standards is worth the paper it is written on. Consumers need to be aware that they will never find free range eggs in a major supermarket. There are plenty labelled as free range but they are sourced from intensive farms and at best should be called cage-free.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

$300,000 fine for 'free range' deception

One of NSW's biggest egg proucers has been fined $300,000 by the Federal court to settle an action brought by the ACCC. The fine to be paid by Pirovic Enterprises is big enough to get big producers in the industry to take egg labelling seriously. Details:
One of the interesting side issues in this decision will be to see if the company takes action against the Australian Egg Corporation - because the business complied with all AECL requirements for its Egg Corp Assured programme - and was accredited as a  free range egg producer. Now the scheme has been revealed as a sham - just as all 'free range' accreditation programmes are a con. Pirovic has not been doing anything differently from other major egg producers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Commercial release of eColi vaccine for poultry

Comment is being sought on the release of a genetically modified poultry vaccine that provides immunity to E.coli infection and disease. Australia's Gene Technology Regulator is currently assessing a license application from the Australian arm of global animal research company Zoetis for a commercial release .
Here are details:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Aussie egg farms to pay for bird flu clean up costs

All egg farmers in Australia will be forced to pay for the costs of the avian influenza outbreak in New South Wales even though it was caused by poor on-farm practices and inadequate biosecurity procedures on the individual farms involved.

A new levy of 1.4 cents on every chick purchased by farmers will be charged, on top of existing levies. A business case has been submitted to the Department of Agriculture for an increase in the Emergency Animal Disease Response Levy.  Egg farmers have six weeks to object to the new levy so If think it's unfair on farmers who do the right thing,  object to this proposal. Send an email to AECL at and also to the Department of Agriculture in Canberra at It seems odd that a coalition Government which publicly supports small business and believes in individual responsibilty would choose a collective approach to bail out businesses which made poor decisions.

The levy increase proposal is to repay an amount of $395,000 to the Australian Government for the egg industry’s share of costs incurred for the responses associated with an outbreak of LPAI among ducks during January 2012; an outbreak of HPAI among laying hens in November 2012; and another outbreak of HPAI among laying hens in October 2013. Many farmers are asking "why should we be penalised for the greed of a couple of operators and their decisions to ignore normal business practices and biosecurity procedures."
To compare the way farmers are treated, in the European Union, 50% of costs associated with the eradication or control of Avian Influenza are covered by the Government.  I'm not suggesting that should be the case here but I don't understand why Aussie farmers who have met all biosecurity and food safety processes should be penalised to the same extent as the clowns in the industry who have been chasing quick dollars.  Where is the equity?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Workshop on Starting a Free Range Egg Farm

Our next workshop on setting up free range egg farm will be held on Wednesday October 15 as part of Fair Food Week.  Details are on our website.
Attendees will get most out of the day if they have read our eBook.