Friday, April 01, 2011

Aust Egg Corp is a bigger threat to farmers than the supermarkets

Free range farmers throughout Australia have lodged a submission with the Senate Inquiry into supermarket discounting. We reckon that the big players who are complaining about Coles' decision to cut their margins  on home brand eggs are only whingeing because of their own greed.

Here's part of the submission from FREPAA Inc.

The Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia Inc., is a national body directly representing free range egg farmers in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Our members are required to meet all State and Federal legislative requirements and the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry provides the basis for minimum animal welfare compliance.

Each State affiliate maintains its own standards and auditing procedures.

Our members are concerned that current complaints by the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd. over the actions of Coles Supermarket in cutting the price of its home brand 'free range' eggs have been designed to divert attention from AECL's own actions.

It is disingenuous for the egg corporation to claim that price cutting by Coles will damage the industry and reduce consumer choice.

The free range egg industry is under far more serious threat from AECL's plans to introduce new standards to allow intensively farmed eggs to be labelled as 'free range'.

A new set of standards has been developed which ignores the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry and all international standards. It seeks to allow an increase in farm stocking densities from1500 birds per hectare to 20,000 hens per hectare and to approve the automatic de-beaking or beak trimming of hens.

If this proposed standard is approved, it will open the door for intensive poultry farms to mislead consumers by labelling their eggs as 'free range'. They are keen to do this as it will enable them to charge a premium without incurring significantly higher costs.

This threat is far more serious for the industry throughout Australia than any decision by a supermarket to reduce the price of a home brand product.

There is no compulsion on AECL members or other egg producers to supply eggs for the generic lines marketed by Coles, Woolworths or any retailer. It is clearly an option for egg producers to follow the lead set by Fosters and refuse to supply their product if they are unhappy with the price for which their goods are being sold.

Discerning egg buyers are already suspicious of eggs sold in supermarkets and they are aware that it is extremely unlikely that any eggs sold for $4.00 a dozen could really be what consumers understand as 'free range'.

The proposal by the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd to adopt a new standard has the potential to damage the credibility of egg farmers and is likely to destroy consumer confidence in an industry which has already undergone major problems with egg substitution and deliberate mislabelling.

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