AFTER disagreeing with the Federal labelling requirements for free-range egg packaging, the ACT government is trying to give local consumers more transparency with new signage.
Consumer Affairs Minister Shane Rattenbury says the ACT was the only jurisdiction to disagree with this standard, and argued that only eggs produced in farms with a stocking density of 1500 birds or less per hectare should be labelled “free range”.
He says this 1500 standard is much more in line with consumer expectations, and better for animal welfare. Consumer and welfare groups such as CHOICE, the RSPCA, and the Humane Society International also support this standard.
As the ACT is unable to change the Federal labelling requirements on egg packaging, Mr Rattenbury says the ACT government is instead requiring signs to be displayed at stores selling eggs, which provide information about stocking densities, and note that the ACT government only considers eggs produced with a stocking density of 1500 hens or less per hectare to be genuinely “free range”.
“Consumers have the right to make informed decisions about where their dollars go, and what type of egg-farming they support,” Mr Rattenbury says.
“The ACT government believes that free-range labelling should signify high animal welfare standards, and not an intensive farming production.”
“I remain disappointed that other jurisdictions have allowed the ‘free range’ standard in Australia to be watered down, and used for eggs produced in situations where hens only have a space of 1 square metre each.
“That is not what consumers think is ‘free range’. Consumers want the confidence that eggs labelled free range come from hens who have the freedom to move around outside and to live reasonably comfortably.
“As an example, in a survey conducted by CHOICE, 91 per cent of free range egg buyers thought it was important that birds have room to move comfortably when they are outside, and 89 per cent of free range egg buyers thought it was important that farmers undertake animal welfare practices in the production of their eggs.
“The simple addition of informative signage will hopefully go some way to assisting consumers who care about the living standards of hens to make an informed decision that aligns with their ethical principles.”