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  • 03 Jul 2012 12:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Humane Choice True Free Range would like to thank VoicelessAnimals Australia and the RSPCA for their unanimous support of our complaint that resulted in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) calling for public comment on the definition of free range eggs.

    The opportunity to express concern or an opinion on the Australian Egg Corporation’s (AECL) proposal to increase layer hen stocking densities to a massive 20,000 birds per hectare closed yesterday.

    “Until the ACCC stepped into this debate the consumer had been ignored on this issue.  They have now been given a voice and we believe it will be collectively a resounding vote against the AECL proposal,” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer of Humane Choice. “We anticipate thousands of responses will be delivered to the ACCC.”

    Humane Choice brought to the attention of the ACCC the inequity of an application by AECL for a Certification Trademark that was currently before them in March last year.

    “We asked the ACCC to reject the application not only because there had not been adequate consultation with all egg producers, but because the consumer stood to be misled by the term ‘free range’ if the application were to be successful, and stocking rates increased to intensive production levels,” said McCosker.

    Animal welfare groups have worked together to help uphold this complaint and have been effective in distributing the information needed to help consumers have their say on what they expect from a carton of eggs labelled as ‘free range’.  


  • 21 Jun 2012 12:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Humane Society International (HSI) congratulates Councillor John Arkan of Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) for joining the fight against Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL).  AECL recently proposed changes to industry standards allowing an increased stocking density for free range hens from 1,500 to 20,000 birds per hectare, a massive 13 fold increase.

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have called for comments on the proposed changes which are now due by 30th June 2012.  Coffs Harbour City Council voted unanimously to make a submission to the ACCC and they hope neighbouring Councils will follow their example and do the same.

    Humane Society International calls for other Councils to step in and join Coffs Harbour City Council in an effort to protect consumers, producers, and of course the hens, by arguing that the lower limit of 1,500 hens per hectare must be enforced.  The proposed standard would be welcomed by larger industrialized producers because it would allow them to market more of their eggs as ‘free range’, but it could potentially devastate genuine free range egg farmers.  If the changes were passed it would also mean that the term ‘free range’ would no longer reflect consumer expectations, affecting consumer confidence in the egg industry.

    The Government model for addressing these issues is to put it in the too hard basket and hand it back to industry to self regulate.  The history of industry self regulation is a grim one when dealing with livestock issues, as we all witnessed in the recent live trade debate.  The way peak industry bodies operate is to favour the large industrial producers at the cost of real Australian farmers.  This current egg debate is a good example of how this works.  Egg Corporation (AECL) have identified the growing demand for free range eggs but rather than support the true free range farmers in expansion, they want to redefine free range to suit the existing production methods already used by Egg Corp assured farms, running more than 20,000 hens per hectare.  This is blatant fraud perpetuated by industry and is being sanctioned by Government.

    We applaud Coffs Harbour Council for speaking up for their producers and constituents and encourage other Councils to follow suit.

    To find out more about how you can provide comments to the ACCC, due by their extended deadline of 30th June 2012, click on this link which will take you to the relevant page on our website.


  • 24 May 2012 12:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) called for public comment on the proposed Australian Egg Corporation’s (AECL)  new standard that would allow an increase in stocking density for layer hens to 20,000 birds per hectare.

    Humane Choice first brought this matter to the ACCC’s attention fifteen months ago.

    “When we learned that the Egg Corporation (AECL) had applied for a Certification Trademark we appealed to the ACCC to reject the application because of the unacceptable proposal to increase stocking rates and the lack of consultation with the egg industry,” said Lee McCosker Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice. “This did result in putting the AECL plans in a holding pattern and explains why we have not seen the standard released to date, but it also resulted in state wide consultation with producers.”

    AECL has had to revise its application several times, with the first submissions not even making reference to the proposed stocking increase even though they had displayed a version of the new standard on the AECL website and informed producers of their intentions.

    “It appears the intention of the AECL was to present a standard to the ACCC that suited the larger industrialized producers while seriously marginalizing the genuine free range farmer.  We can only trust that the ACCC has recognised this and also acknowledged that the consumer will be disadvantaged if this standard were to ever make it into the marketplace,” McCosker said.  “The AECL Egg Standard is not about distinguishing certified producers by the application of the ESA Mark, it is an attempt to make sweeping changes to the entire egg industry, and consumers and true free range farmers will just not tolerate that.”

    You can read all about the ACCC call for comment and how to participate at this link www.humanechoice.com.au/accc


  • 21 May 2012 12:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Humane Society International praises Tasmania’s move to make battery hen farming history as well as fast-tracking the phasing out of sow stalls for pigs in response to increased demand for ethical produce.  Being the first Australian state to make this move, Tasmania is making history and is moving towards becoming ‘the humane state of Australia’, leaving the others well behind.  The European Union recently celebrated a similar victory, making battery cages illegal at the beginning of 2012, sparing the welfare of at least 300 million hens from these inhumane living conditions.

    The battery cage typically holds four or five hens with floor space per bird less than an A4 sheet of paper, preventing them from spreading their wings or displaying the most basic natural behaviours.  Poor ventilation, low light levels, and often being forced to stand on a sloping wire mesh floor, only adds to the extreme physical and psychological stress these animals endure.  Sow stalls are equally inhumane, confining a pregnant sow to such an extent that she is unable to turn around.  Many consumers have responded by attempting to choose free range eggs and pork, favouring the ethical alternatives, however, this can be a challenging task with no labelling laws in Australia to distinguish the true free range products.

    “As there are no laws in place in Australia to enforce clear labelling of ethically produced meat and eggs, the rights of consumers and small producers are sacrificed because humane products are so difficult to identify,” says Verna Simpson, HSI Director“If the Australian Government refuses to improve labelling laws and instead continues to allow for consumers to be misled, then Tasmania could secure a major proportion of the emerging market for ethical produce.”

    The move towards ethical farming methods by both Tasmania and the EU only highlights an even greater need for the remaining Australian states to follow suit and step up, following their example.  The $2.5 million initiative puts Tasmania at the forefront of animal welfare standards.  They are placing an immediate ban on future battery hen operations and capping existing hen stock during the transition.  They have also committed to phase out sow stalls by mid-2013, well before the industry’s target of 2017.  Again, Australia falls well behind given that sow stalls were banned over a decade ago in countries such as the UK.

    Although HSI will continue to work towards the legislation of truth in labelling for ethical produce so consumers are no longer misled and small producers are protected, we have today written to Tasmanian Primaries Industry Minister Bryan Green requesting a meeting to discuss the potential for Tasmania to become ‘the Humane State’.


  • 16 May 2012 12:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Humane Choice has launched a new campaign in a bid to bring some clarity to the free range egg debate.  With Australian Egg Corporation hell bent on commandeering the free range market for its largest members and ignoring the consumer, the genuine true free range egg producers look like being put out of business unless there is some way of telling the intensive eggs from the real deal.

    “There are two things that the industrialized producers will never be able to guarantee consumers and they are that their hens were grazed on pasture, and that they were given plenty of room to move and forage naturally as part of a sustainable farming system.  PROOF is an acronym for ‘Pasture Raised On Open Fields’ and that is exactly what our producers provide,” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice. “We are encouraging all free range producers from all livestock systems to get behind this campaign and let the public know that if they are going to purchase free range eggs, chicken, or pork, they must ask for PROOF.”

    Egg Corporation has employed every tactic possible, from scare mongering about having to import eggs to contemptible lies about nonexistent science supporting their proposed increase in stocking densities to 20,000 hens per hectare. There have even been outrageous claims of needing to feed the world with free range eggs and that without an increase in hen stocking rates, prices would increase to over $12 a dozen.  All this is just propaganda to secure the industry for those at the top of the ladder and sitting on the board of Australian Egg Corporation.

    “The consumer is so confused and without a legal definition for free range, they are being taken advantage of and ripped off.  We need to sustain consumer choice and simplify this debate for them.  When buying free range eggs simply ask for PROOF.  Humane Choice certification will offer all the proof you need that your eggs are true free range,” says McCosker.


  • 01 May 2012 6:30 PM | Anonymous
    Australian Egg Corporation Purposely Misrepresents Study for Own Gain

    Australian Egg Corporation (AECL) have based an increase in stocking densities for free range hens to 20,000 per hectare based on a study by the Avian Science Research Centre in Scotland.

     

    The study, entitled “Behavioural responses to different floor space allowances in small groups of laying hens”, is just that; a study of space allowances for hens kept indoors, not in a free range environment.

     

    The study does make reference to free range hens but only when it acknowledges that outdoor allowances in the EU is 40,000 cm2 per bird, an equivalent of  2,500 birds per hectare.

     

    The Scottish Research Centre has confirmed to us that this study relates only to indoor hens and that conclusions about free range stocking densities cannot be drawn from this study without alteration and considerable research on what is acceptable outdoors to back it up.

     

    What this study does tell us is that we should be reducing indoor stocking densities for Australian flocks from a currently allowable 15 to just 2 birds per square metre.

     

    Unfortunately we don’t believe that AECL will be as keen to adopt the findings of this study to address stocking densities for intensively housed sheds as this would severely impact on the profits of the large cage and barn producers, the same producers in many instances that are behind the push to increase free range densities.

     

    This is an embarrassing situation for AECL but signals just what lengths they will go to to secure the free range industry for their larger members without any regard for the consumer, the environment or the true free range farmer.

     

    AECL have now attempted to reinvent the intent and meaning of not only the Model Code of Practice with their erroneous interpretations, but now they have done the same to science, the very foundation they claim to base the egg industry’s practices on.


  • 27 Apr 2012 12:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Animal welfare is intrinsically linked to farming practices and the ethics of the producer. Humane Choice has long been an advocate for farmers that are committed to a whole of farm philosophy where animals are not just viewed as a commodity; they are an integral part of the farm.

    “The intensification of free range production does not fit with our philosophy or consumer expectations,” says Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice. “Our farmers have worked hard to promote a free range alternative and this market has grown substantially over the past 5 years. They are now fighting to hold on to that.  When the industry peak body’s sole motivation is profit, how can we entrust truth in labelling to them that encompasses all our concerns and includes animal welfare, the environment and consumer rights?”

    The Greens NSW have been pushing for a standard definition of free-range eggs and measures to stop unscrupulous producers falsely claiming free range status. Humane Choice supports such a move and encourages anyone that believes in truth in labelling to get behind this Bill and let their local member know that they must be heard on this issue.

    There is a growing movement of ‘back to basics’ farmers that want to produce food, not just a commodity. They want to embrace community, old fashioned human values and farm their livestock and land with respect.  If you would like to learn more, join Lee McCosker on the 7th May at Leichhardt Town Hall where she will speak about the issues important to free range pastured egg producers and consumers alike and what you can do to support them.


  • 23 Apr 2012 10:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    No sunny side with free-range change

    Alexandra Smith

    April 24, 2012


    Scrambled ... Choice and the RSPCA were excluded from formal talks on how free-range eggs should be labelled. 

    SHOPPERS are being kept in the dark over plans for a new definition for the term free-range, the consumer group Choice has warned after it was excluded from formal talks on resolving the dispute over how eggs should be labelled.

    The RSPCA was also not invited to take part in the state government's truth-in-labelling reference group, which will meet for the final time today in an effort to bring an end to the inconsistent terms used on egg cartons in NSW.

    Egg labelling has become a contentious issue after the Australian Egg Corporation, which represents most egg producers, devised a new standard that would allow a free-range egg farm to have as many as 20,000 chickens per hectare.

    Free-range farmers and animal welfare groups are outraged by the new standard, which they say is unethical and will not give consumers any confidence in the free-range industry. The present model code allows 1500 chickens per hectare.

    A spokeswoman for Choice, Ingrid Just, said it made a request to the office of the Minister for Primary Resources, Katrina Hodgkinson, and the NSW Food Authority to take part in the talks as observers but was denied access.

    ''Our main concern is that consumers' voices will not be heard and without any consumer representation at this forum, it will be very hard for the minister to get an idea of what consumers expect when purchasing free-range,'' Ms Just said.

    The RSPCA, which endorses many free-range egg farms and allows them to use the organisation's logo on their packaging, was also excluded from the labelling forum, despite its extensive work in animal welfare.

    ''RSPCA Australia was not invited and is disappointed to have not been included in these discussions,'' an RSPCA spokeswoman said.

    But a spokeswoman for the NSW Food Authority said the labelling forum was convened to facilitate an ''industry-supported resolution to egg labelling challenges''.

    She said major industry representatives were involved in the forum but consumer advocates may become involved in the process ''further down the track, once the scope of the issue has been gauged''.

    The Greens MP John Kaye said the forum was never intended to protect consumers and genuine free-range farmers.

    ''Its membership, timeline and internal processes were carefully crafted to guarantee an ineffective outcome that leaves the big industrial producers unconstrained by a legislated definition of free-range,'' Dr Kaye said.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/no-sunny-side-with-freerange-change-20120423-1xheb.html#ixzz1stp4hNCX 


  • 17 Apr 2012 10:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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.

    office@hodgkinson.minister.nsw.gov.au

    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!

  • 08 Mar 2012 10:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ACCC begins Federal Court proceedings against Rosie's Free Range Eggs

    ·         by: Verity Edwards

    ·         From: The Australian

    ·         March 09, 2012 12:00AM

     

    FAMILY business Barossa Fine Foods has built its reputation on selling quality meats and smallgoods.

    But it is worried after learning it has been distributing eggs from a company being prosecuted by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

    The ACCC announced yesterday that it had begun Federal Court proceedings against Rosie's Free Range Eggs, alleging that "a substantial proportion of the eggs were not free-range but cage eggs".

    The consumer watchdog alleges that between March 2007 and October 2010, Rosemary Bruhn represented that eggs she supplied to 117 retail outlets, including bakeries, cafes and restaurants, were free-range when many were not.

    Ms Bruhn's Eudunda farm is 110km north of Adelaide. Her website and cartons show pictures of chickens in lavender fields.

    She appeared in 2006 on the defunct ABC program The Cook and The Chef.

    The company claims to be audited annually by Southern Eggs. Neither Southern Eggs nor Ms Bruhn returned calls yesterday. Barossa Fine Foods has been selling up to 300 dozen of Rosie's Free Range Eggs weekly for almost a decade at its eight South Australian stores.

    General manager Stephan Knoll said yesterday it was a shock to hear of the ACCC allegations, given his company's long association with Ms Bruhn.

    "We try to look after local businesses, but if she's found to be doing the wrong thing it makes it difficult" to support her, he said. "We'll wait for the findings, but if there's any truth to this we'll consider taking them off the shelves."

    Barossa Fine Foods prided itself on integrity, he said, and an association with any allegedly misleading company would not reflect well on his business.

    "It's not whether they're cage or free-range, it's the truth that we're concerned about."

    Mr Knoll is on the committee of regional body Barossa Food, of which Rosie's Free Range Eggs is also a member.

    He said Barossa Food would reconsider Ms Bruhn's membership if the court found against her.

    A Federal Court directions hearing is listed for March 28.


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