Thursday, February 08, 2018
Free range guidance from the ACCC at last!
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released guidance for egg producers on its approach to enforcing the new National Information Standard on free range eggs, which comes into effect on April 26 2018. Under the new Standard, egg producers cannot use the words ‘free range’ on their egg cartons unless the eggs were laid by hens that: had meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during daylight hours,were able to roam and forage on the outdoor range, were subject to a stocking density of 10 000 hens or less per hectare, and that outdoor stocking density is prominently displayed on the packaging or signage. “Shoppers are willing to pay a premium for free range eggs, but only if the chickens genuinely have regular access to an outdoor range. From April 26, free range must only be used by compliant egg producers so consumers can have confidence in the products they are buying,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said. “If an egg producer’s hens are using the outdoor range on a regular basis and they satisfy the stocking density requirements, then the producer can call their eggs free range.” The guidance also explains egg producers’ obligations under the misleading or deceptive conduct provisions of Australian Consumer Law. This includes representations made through marketing activities such as product packaging and advertising. “If egg producers use images, pictures, or words, other than free range, that imply their eggs are free range when they are not, this would likely raise concerns under the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Sims said. “The ACCC is monitoring the market to ensure that free range claims are truthful and accurate and will continue to take action against those that don’t.” The industry expects there will be many more prosecutions because many corporate egg producers with intensive facilities have for years been marketing their eggs as free range and they don't propose to change their ways. The debate over outdoor stocking densities on free range farms was hi-jacked by animal rights groups. It is more than a welfare issue – it’s about land sustainability. A laying hen produces half a cubic metre of manure a year. So with a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare farmers will see their land covered with 5000 cubic metres of manure per hectare every year. As chicken manure has the highest amount of nitrogen,phosphorus, and potassium of all manures, it will likely render the land useless for farming within a few years. Contamination of groundwater and water courses is also likely.