Home > States agree to develop national standard for free range eggs

States agree to develop national standard for free range eggs

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State and territory ministers have agreed on a NSW proposal to develop a national standard for free range eggs.

The proposal follows an investigation last year by New South Wales Fair Trading, which found the rules for classifying eggs are ambiguous and some of the most expensive eggs have the highest stocking densities for chickens on farms, ABC News reports.

The ministers agreed to the proposal at a meeting in Cairns, with New South Wales to take a leading role in developing a draft National Information Standard for free range eggs.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said a national standard is needed to respond to growing consumer demand in the face of confusing and potentially false and misleading claims in the market.

“This is a good first step on the road to getting better outcomes for consumers when it comes to egg labelling,” he said.

"NSW Fair Trading will now lead further work on this important consumer issue and expects to report back to ministers at their next meeting in early 2015."

Choice director of campaigns and communications, Matt Levey said “Our super complaint to NSW Fair Trading last year pointed out that while close to 40 percent of the egg market is free range, the egg industry has admitted that many products labelled free range fall foul of the existing voluntary definition.

“This means a large number of consumers are shelling out for free range duds, paying double the price of cage eggs, without having any confidence these products meet their reasonable expectations,” Levey said. "The crucial next step is ensuring the new standard reflects consumers' expectations and the best advice of animal welfare experts, ensuring it is not only nationally consistent and enforceable, but meaningful."

ACT and Queensland are the only states currently with free range egg standards, but their standards are vastly different.

In ACT, a stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare can be called free range, but Queensland raised its stocking density from 1,500, to 10,000 last year.

Coles has adopted a maximum stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare for its own brand free range eggs.

The investigation by NSW Fair Trading last year found that farms are commonly stocked at 20,000 chickens per hectare when they carry the free range label, despite the CSIRO’s current model code of practice recommending 1,500 birds per hectare.

photo credit: flowercarole viaphotopincc

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