Thursday, August 17, 2017
Senate could extend its farm gate price enquiry to cover eggs
It's a pity that the current Senate inquiry into farm gate milk prices isn't extended to also cover the treatment of farmers in the egg industry. Political interference in the definition of free range eggs has created a massive platform for consumer deception and unfair competition. Ministers for Consumer Affairs got it wrong when they allowed an intensive stocking density for free range egg production. The Model Code of Practice recommended a maximum outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare but the Ministers approved a density of 10,000 hens without taking account of planning laws which treat intensive farming operations as feed lots with restrictive planning regulations. They also ignored rulings by Federal Court justices in cases of deceptive conduct over egg labelling. False assertions were made by major players in the egg industry that no maximum stocking density was set in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). The industry cobbled together an amended code which they peddled as the real thing and claimed that it showed no maximum stocking density. They included in the main body of their version of the code, an edited item from the Appendix which they said allowed unlimited stocking densities. The actual Appendix states at 2.1.4 “The maximum acceptable densities for free range birds For layer hens a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare.” Then it refers to meat birds.”Meat chickens, a proportionately higher stocking density than for layers may be used.” The intent is crystal clear but in their dodgy version of the code, the industry left out all references to ‘meat birds’. The plan was clearly designed to deceive Ministers and con them into accepting that the Model Code did not establish a maximum stocking density and to accept their arguments and those of the major supermarkets for a 10,000 hen per hectare density. The Senate could trawl through all the deception and bring some certainty to farmers and consumers.