|11th December, 2013 Sydney
After ten years of campaigning for truth in labelling, Humane Society International (HSI) is thrilled by yesterday’s announcement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that, as a result of one of our formal complaints, they have instigated proceedings against major egg producers in WA and NSW for misleading consumers in their use of the term ‘free range’.
A number of other high profile brands and major producers are also currently under thorough investigation by the ACCC for similar misleading claims, and HSI is hopeful that the outcome of these complaints will help bring truth in labelling to the forefront of the free range industry, putting an end to the deceptive claims that seem to have been used freely amongst larger producers. HSI first became aware of Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd, who trade as Swan Valley Egg Farm and Eggs by Ellah, and their produce in 2011 and submitted a formal complaint to the ACCC in early 2012.
Swan Valley Egg Farm and Eggs by Ellah account for the majority of free range eggs in Western Australia which are sold in major supermarkets, and owner Mr Cocking has boasted in media reports that he is the largest free range egg producer in Western Australia. HSI’s investigations revealed that Swan Valley may have been falsely labelling their eggs as free range, displaying the Australian Egg Corporation’s Egg Corp Assured logo on the packaging. Details of the Snowdale Holdings operation were also supplied to the head offices of Australia’s two major supermarkets, yet both chose to continue stocking the contentious produce and have taken no action.
Verna Simpson, HSI Director, says, “We are delighted that HSI’s complaints are being so thoroughly investigated by the ACCC and we hope that the misuse of the term ‘free range’ for both egg and pork products will soon be a thing of the past. As we’ve said all along, if you label an egg ‘free range’ and it’s produced in a system stocking more than 1,500 hens per hectare, then you are clearly misleading your consumers. We feel reassured that, thanks to the ACCC, we’re one step closer to securing national legislation for the term ‘free range’ which would help bring clarity to the whole free range egg industry.”
True free range egg farmers who follow the guidelines of the Model Code of Practice stock no more than 1,500 hens per hectare – the birds are kept in conditions where they can move around freely on an open range every day, displaying their natural behaviours, as nature intended. Verna Simpson continued, “HSI believes that a definition of ‘free range’ needs to be mandatory at a national level, with hen stocking densities clearly marked on product packaging. True free range farmers who are running genuine free range establishments deserve to retain their market and consumers deserve the truth.”
The ACCC’s announcement involves the first of a series of major complaints submitted by HSI and we are hoping for more good news in the coming months. We are hopeful that the outcome of these investigations will help to finally resolve this issue, preventing any more consumer deception and protecting genuine free range egg and pork producers, and their animals.
Photo: Swan Valley Eggs and Eggs by Ellah in Coles
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