Sunny side up for shoppers with labelling Bill for free range eggs

Sunny side up for shoppers with labelling Bill for free range eggs

Arming consumers with clear information about the hens that lay the “free range” eggs they buy is the aim of a Private Member’s Bill introduced this morning by the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

Photograph: Erin Turner, Head of Campaigns at CHOICE, with Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie. CHOICE supports Rebekha's Private Member's Bill to ensure eggs marketed as 'free range' are laid by hens that move freely in open range during daylight hours and are stocked at a density of no more than 1,500 hens per hectare.

“It’s clear the current standard of free range eggs fails to meet consumer expectations,” Rebekha said.

“A stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare does not reflect the consumer’s depiction of ‘free range’ and the images of hens on grass on the front of free range egg cartons do not reflect the reality of 10,000 hen farms.

“My Competition and Consumer Amendment (Free Range Eggs) Bill 2018 is all about providing relevant information to a consumer.

“I understand there is a place in the market for both barn laid and caged eggs.

“This Bill seeks to ensure there is information for consumers, and that there is clarity.”

Rebekha drafted the Bill after being approached last year by small-scale free range producers in her electorate.

“Many of the free range farms through the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island are exactly how consumers would picture an egg farm, with plenty of space, grass and fresh air for the hens to roam free,” Rebekha said.

“They would meet the RSPCA’s code of conduct which recommends a stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare, but they are being squeezed out of the market by larger producers who fall well short of this code.

“The Australian Consumer Law (Free Range Egg Labelling) Information Standard 2017, implemented by the Australian Government in 2017, significantly broadened the definition of ‘free range’ to allow stocking densities of 10,000 hens or less.

“And the hens are only required to have ‘access’ to outdoor areas for roaming rather than being raised in an environment where they do roam free in daylight hours.

“I believe this is ambiguous and does not meet consumer expectations.”

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Free Range Eggs) Bill 2018 seeks to provide greater transparency for consumers by ensuring eggs labelled as ‘free range’ are;

  • Laid by hens that are able to, and do in fact, move freely on an open range during daylight hours on most days.
  • Laid by hens that are stocked at a density of no more than 1,500 per hectare.
  • Marketed so the stocking density is displayed prominently on egg cartons in only a ‘hens per hectare’ format.

“I strongly encourage the Government to take up the measures in my Bill so that consumers have all of the relevant information they need when they are making choices in the supermarket,” Rebekha said.

“I am pleased that this Bill has the support of the RSPCA and the support of CHOICE who have been strong advocates on this issue for a long time.”