Until now, it has pretty much been a free-for-all when it comes to labelling free range eggs.
The burgeoning demand has led to some producers simply re-inventing themselves with clever marketing and incorporating the words ‘free’ or ‘free range’ into their brand to capture a share of this market. Consumer needs and wants have been ignored, or just exploited by those that have chosen to misrepresent their product.
Consumers have an expectation when they purchase free range eggs. At the very least there should be some guarantee that these birds are actually free to range. Allowing massive increases in stocking densities for outdoor birds will only line the pockets of intensive producers and will be detrimental to consumer perceptions of the free range industry, the health and welfare of the birds, and damaging to the environment.
Industry is almost frantic to take control of the term free range and has attempted to implement these changes quietly without full producer consultation or, more importantly, without consideration for just what the consumer perceives free range to be.
“Feeding a growing population is no justification for hijacking the term free range,” says Lee McCosker from Humane Choice. “What the Australian Egg Corporation is proposing is not only socially and environmentally irresponsible, but would also be the equivalent of hen feed lots. The term ‘free range’ belongs to those producers that are truly committed to giving the consumer the ethical product that they seek. The choice is the consumer’s to make and must not be taken from them with deceptive labelling. If it’s not free to range, simply call it something else.”
Humane Choice will be attending the launch of the Greens’ Truth in Labelling Bill (for free range eggs) to show our support for this much needed initiative. We need legislation now that will define free range and protect not only the consumer, but the welfare of layer hens and the environment.