Four chooks on the back of a ute — stocking density
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released guidance for egg producers on its approach to enforcing the new National Information Standard on free-range eggs, which comes into effect on 26 April.
Under the new standard, egg producers cannot use the words “free-range” on their egg cartons unless the eggs were laid by hens that:
- had meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during the daylight hours of the laying cycle;
- were able to roam and forage on the outdoor range; and
- were subject to a stocking density of 10,000 hens or less per hectare, with that outdoor stocking density prominently displayed on the packaging or signage.
“Shoppers are willing to pay a premium for free-range eggs, but only if the chickens genuinely have regular access to an outdoor range,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. “From April 26, free-range must only be used by compliant egg producers so consumers can have confidence in the products they are buying.
“If an egg producer’s hens are using the outdoor range on a regular basis and they satisfy the stocking density requirements, then the producer can call their eggs free-range.”
The guidance also explains egg producers’ obligations under the misleading or deceptive conduct provisions of Australian Consumer Law. This includes representations made through marketing activities such as product packaging and advertising.
“If egg producers use images, pictures or words, other than free-range, that imply their eggs are free-range when they are not, this would likely raise concerns under the Australian Consumer Law,” Sims said.
“The ACCC is monitoring the market to ensure that free-range claims are truthful and accurate and will continue to take action against those that don’t.”
Along with the standard, the federal government intends to introduce a ‘safe harbour’ defence for misleading conduct for egg producers that comply with the standard. The ACCC will update the guidance once the safe harbour comes into effect.
The guidance is available at https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/free-range-chicken-egg-claims.
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