Egg producers will be allowed to label their cartons free range only if there is no more than 750 laying fowl per hectare. Water, shade and shelter must also be provided and beak trimming is prohibited under the Truth in Labelling (Free-Range Eggs) Bill.
Eggs that are not free range or barn must be labelled as cage eggs. The use of advertising or packaging that suggests the laying fowl are not kept in cages would be prohibited.
Corporations would face fines of up to $55,000. Individuals could receive six months’ jail and a $5500 fine.
The Greens MP John Kaye said people were being ripped off by unscrupulous caged egg producers, and legitimate free range producers were unable to compete. He said the absence of legislated definitions and enforceable penalties for false labelling meant in some cases free range "is nothing more than a marketing exercise to boost sales and prices".
The ACT and Tasmania have passed legislation to regulate the production and labelling of eggs.
The industry body, the Australian Egg Corporation, said the cap on stocking densities in the draft bill is "unsustainable and unrealistic".
AECL, dominated by Australia’s three largest egg producers, says it will lobby NSW MPs to vote against the bill.
With the Egg Corporation lobbying hard against it, the Bill will have an uphill battle. Hopefully thee will be a groundswell of support to let the MP's realise that the provisions in the Bill are very sustainable and realistic.