Last Friday the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) handed down its decision to refuse the Australian Egg Corporation’s (AEC) ludicrous application for a Trade Mark for free range eggs farmed to densities of 20,000 hens per hectare or more – a huge increase from the current standard of 1,500 hens per hectare.
A formal complaint was made to the ACCC by Humane Society International against the AEC bid. The ACCC called for submissions, and of the over 1700 received, all but 7 opposed the application.
One of the main reasons cited by the ACCC for rejecting the application was concern that the proposed new definition of free range may mislead or deceive consumers regarding the nature of a certified egg production process described as ‘free range’. This is based on the recognition that consumers are increasingly making food purchasing decisions based on production methods and processes (value based decisions).
The ACCC went on to say that increasing the stocking density from the current 1,500 birds per hectare would cause further confusion, making it harder for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions and reducing confidence in products labelled ‘free range’.
The ACCC considers that consumers expect free range birds to access a genuine range environment where they can frequently perform most of their natural behaviours. Consumers also expect higher animal welfare practices in free range systems relating to the management of flock size and density as well as preventative management practices (for example, providing opportunities for dust bathing and perching) to alleviate the need for routine beak trimming.
Standards for different farming systems need to be legislated by the Federal Government to reflect true free range production across all types of livestock. Our Government needs to know that the interests of the free range farmer and the ethical consumer need to be protected.
This decision by the ACCC is definitely a step in the right direction and lets us as consumers know that the power of our words and wallets is working.
If you would like to vote with you feet to bring an end to factory farming, please join us at Hyde Park, Sydney, Sunday 11th November, 1pm – 3pm.