Don’t Let the Australian Egg Corporation Manipulate the ‘Free Range’ Label

This has been an interesting month for the battery hen campaign. After some hard campaigning by animal welfare organisations, Tasmania has become the first Australian State to commit to completely phasing out banning battery cages. Unfortunately, the Australian Egg Corporation (AEC) is trying to claw back control through a blatant ploy to manipulate the ‘free range’ label.

The AEC has submitted a proposal to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to implement legislation for standardising the ‘free range’ label. Through this seemingly innocuous move the AEC is attempting to hijack the ‘free range’ label and increase stocking densities from a reasonable 1,500 hens per hectare to 20,000 hens per hectare. This is over 13 times the current levels and renders the term ‘free range’ meaningless.

The ACCC are calling for public comment on egg standards. I have written to the ACCC to express GreenFoodie’s vehement opposition to this proposal. Please copy or write your own letter to the ACCC at adjudication@accc.gov.au.

“Dear ACCC,

I am writing to express my dismay and anger that the ACCC is considering Australian Egg Corporation’s proposal to change the definition of ‘Free Range Eggs’ from the current 1,500 hens per hectare to 20,000 hens per hectare. That translates to only half a square meter for each bird to ‘roam’ and mirrors the intensive industrial farming model that most people who buy free range are trying to avoid. This appears to be a highly unethical and subversive attempt by agro-industry to cash in on people’s willingness to pay more for what they believe is better quality food based on health, animal welfare and environmental considerations.

I fully support legislation to formally define the term ‘free range’ as consumers must be able to make informed decisions about the food they buy and eat. However, consumers who choose to eat ‘free range’ do so because they believe and expect the product thus labelled has been produced ethically, with strong consideration for animal welfare and the environment. Any attempts to water down the term ‘free range’ will result in a consumer backlash, farmers who are working hard to produce genuine free range products will be negatively impacted and there will be no incentive to change a highly unethical, environmentally destructive and unsustainable industry.

Most consumers would like to see the end of cruel animal practices in the production of their food, though there are those in our communities that cannot afford to pay premiums for better quality food. More importantly and at the very least, consumers have a right to know what they are eating and to trust that their food is labelled appropriately. ACCC you must stand by your raisson d’etre of protecting consumers rights, especially on such an important issue as our right to know what we are eating and our ability to choose based on that knowledge.

As an ethically conscious consumer I call on you to 1) maintain maximum stocking density at current levels, 2) if changes are to be made, labelling specifications for ‘free range’ must be based on the advice of animal welfare and environmental organisations not on the vested interests of the Australian Egg Corporation, 3) legislate the use of the term ‘free range’ to meet consumer expectation.

Thank you and I look forward to a swift resolution on this matter.”

For more information and to learn what you can do to end battery caged hens please visit these sites:

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