Consumer watchdog cracks down on free range eggs

Free range egg producers will be bound by a new information standard. Source: Getty

Australian free range egg producers are now bound by a new information standard, applied under Australian Consumer Law.

Australia's consumer watchdog has started to crack down on the free range egg market.

From Thursday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will enforce a new National Information Standard on free range eggs, ending confusion around what constitutes "free range".

Under the new rules, egg producers cannot use the words "free range" on their cartons unless the eggs meet certain criteria. 

An ACCC statement said the eggs must be laid by hens that "had meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during the daylight hours of the laying cycle" and be able to "roam and forage on the outdoor range".

And they must be subject to a stocking density of 10,000 hens or less per hectare, the exact number of which should be displayed on the packaging or signage.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said that Australian shoppers are willing to pay premium for free range eggs, "but only if the chickens genuinely have regular access to an outdoor range".

"From (today), free range must only be used by compliant egg producers so consumers can have confidence in the products they are buying."

"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 ACCC has indicated 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.

However, the "10,000 hens or less per hectare" is much higher than the CSIRO's Model Code of Practice, which says there should be a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare on an outdoor range.

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