A New Twist to The Free Range Egg Debate
A new twist in the free range egg labelling debate. NSW Food Authority to weigh in on truth in labelling.
The NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, has convened an Egg Labelling Forum to "facilitate industry in resolving its long standing difficulties with egg labelling, in particular the inconsistent use of terms on eggs to which a premium is applied."
While this sounds promising, dont get too excited because the terms of reference have already been changed and the word 'inconsistent' removed.
Another glitch is that the Food Authority cannot consider animal welfare, production systems, the environment or consumer rights when considering defining truth in labelling.
So what is there? What does this mean?
Food Authority are proposing to endorse Quality Assurance schemes that are displayed on eggs and will keep a register of those that meet their approval.
Does this mean we can now confidently buy free range eggs?
No! Nothing could be further from the truth. The Food Authority will endorse any scheme, 20,000 or 100,000 hens per hectare, it doesn't matter as long as you are part of a scheme and follow their rules.
This means we will then see an array of 'certification' marks and claims of accredited free range flood the supermarket shelves and compound the confusion over free range that already exists. These eggs could be from farms with even lower standards than the Code of Practice for Animal Welfare but as long as they make their standards available it will not be illegal.
It will be up to the consumer to research each QA scheme and find out what those standards are.
It seems the path has been cleared for Egg Corporation's new proposal of 20,000 birds per hectare but the scary thing is this could end up being the minimum standard as big producers develop their own QA schemes with much much higher stocking rates.
Outraged as we are? Let Katrina Hodgkinson know that you will not stand for this and that you want government to support the NSW Egg Labelling Bill and legislation stocking densities for true free range hens at 1,500 per hectare.
Lee McCosker from Humane Choice is a member of the Egg Labelling Forum and happy to answer any questions here.
Join Lee on 7th May at 7pm at Leichhardt Town Hall for the launch of the Egg Labelling Bill. See more details here book a place!