reading-free-range-labelConsumer awareness of the ethical, environmental and health considerations involved with factory farming production methods is growing, and consumers are increasingly wanting to make informed choices on the animal-derived food products they purchase.  Despite demand and growth in awareness, animal derived food products are still labelled with a confusing and incoherent abundance of poorly defined and unregulated labelling terms. A suite of such voluntary standards and third party certification schemes of varying regulation have resulted in the big producers redefining the terms to suit themselves, and have left consumers with a spectrum of products produced under a range of conditions. This ambiguity does not facilitate the ability of consumers to make informed product purchases.

This guide has been developed to help take the confusion and guesswork out of all the terms and labels that consumers are faced with by presenting common conditions in standards for welfare focused cattle, sheep, pig, and poultry certification schemes.

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How the consumer guide was produced

This online guide has been produced with support from all standards or certification schemes.

Humane Society International (HSI) developed a survey based on common conditions presented in standards for welfare-focused cattle, sheep, pig, and poultry product certification schemes. Also taking into consideration common public concerns for animal welfare in method of production for animal products, HSI developed a set of questions relating to standards for animal welfare certification schemes.

The survey was given to all major certifiers to complete. Any information not provided was obtained from information provided on certifiers' websites. Data was then developed into a form which clearly presented responses in a way so that they could easily be compared against each other.

While care has been taken to ensure that the information contained on this website is true and correct at the time of publication, changes by certifiers after the time of publication may impact on the accurcay of this information.

So how does it work?

The idea is simple - choose an animal or product whose welfare you are interested in and compare standards against each other.

The Debate Over Stocking Rates for Free Range Hens

There has been a lot of discussion over the past months about the egg industry's plans to increase stocking densities for free range layer hens to 20,000 birds per hectare.  Australian Egg Corporation, the peak industry body for egg producers, is attempting to introduce a new industry standard, Egg Standards Australia, that they say will cap stocking rates for free range hens at 20,000 hens as many free range eggs are already being produced under much higher stocking rates.  Egg Corporation also claim that their new egg standard will make more free range eggs available to a growing population at a more competitive price than those produced by farmers that have modelled their production systems on the Model Code of Practice and stock their hens at just 1,500 per hectare or less.

Coles has also increased the stocking rate for their branded free range eggs to 10,000 hens per hectare.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission stepped into this debate recognising that the consumer needed to have their say in this matter.  The  Egg Corporations has now withdrawn its Certification Trademark application.

You, the consumer, should have the loudest voice in this matter because you have an expection of what free range means and how you expect free range hens to be treated.  However, this issue is not just about animal welfare and your percepetion of what a flock of free range hens looks like.

Egg Corporation has ignored the environmental implications in their plans to dramatically increase hen numbers outdoors. This should concern us all.

If you feel strongly about keeping stocking rates for hens at sustainable levels, you can be heard by writing to your local member and state minister for agriculture. 

Humane Choice is running a postcard campaign for consumers that wish to support the 1,500 stocking density set out in the Code of Practice.  You can learn more about the cards and where to get them here. 

Latest News

Saskia Beer's Barossa Farm Produce gives undertaking to ACCC for misrepresenting 'Black Pig' products  (ACCC 16th June 2014)

Free-range eggs: States, territories to try to agree on national code to stamp out misleading products  (ABC 13th June 2014)

ACCC takes action following alleged egg cartel attempt  (ACCC 28th May 2014)

Free range pigs with plenty of space are in the runing for delicious.produce awards race  (The Daily Telegraph 13th May 2014)

ACCC institutes proceedings against free range egg producers [Eggs by Ellah, Swan Valley Eggs, Pirovic] (ACCC 10 December 2013)

Court orders fines of $400K for false 'free range' claims  (Agri-Business 6th Novemer 2013)

Free Range change labeled unethical  (Weekly Times Now 31st August 2013)

A Cracking good effort  (The Islander 22nd August 2013)

RSPCA 'not consulted' over free range chicken move  (Brisbane Times 2nd August 2013)

Free Range Egg definition scrambled  (Brisbane Times 29th July 2013)

HSI calls on consumers to boycott QLD egg(Food Magazine 25th July 2013)

No More Free Range Eggs in Queensland  (Humane Choice media release)

Baiada [Steggles] busted for misleading 'free to roam' claims  (Food Magazine)

South Australia to define free range eggs (ABC)

RSPCA welcomes record cruelty fine [Westpork]   (RSPCA media release)

Piggery fined $225,000 over sick pigs  (The West Australian)

Free Range claims under ACCC scrutiny  (News Limited)

10,000 hens a hectare is no free range: ACCC  (The Age 5th March 2013)

Unravelling the Coles Sow Stall and Cage Free Advertising (Humane Choice)

Swan Valley Egg Farm ( 2 Jan 2013)

Cracks in free range plan (The Land 1st January 2013)

Pepe's Ducks to pay $400,000 arising from false, misleading and deceptive conduct (ACCC, 19th Dec 2012)

Why the ACCC was right to knock back egg trademark (Monash November 2012)

Misleading free range label rejected  (The Australian 2nd November 2012)

ACCC has concerns over Australian Egg Corporation's proposed Free Range trademark  (The Australian 3rd Nov 2012)

Pork Producers argue about free range standards (ABC Bush Telegraph)

Australian Poultry Industry Association withdraws its certified trade mark application (ACCC website)

South Australian egg supplier Rosie's Free Range Eggs fined for selling cage eggs advertsied as free-range ( Sept. 7th 2012)

ACCC wants consumer comment on free range chicken and turkey standards

Call for comment reveals cracks in free range egg label plans  (Sydney Morning Herald, May 28, 2012)

Free Range Approach to Obeying Code (The Age April 15th, 2012)

ACCC begins Federal Court proceedings against Rosie's Free Range Eggs  (The Australian, March 9, 2012)

RSPCA label 'dupes buyers' (Sydney Morning Herald, Jan 9th, 2012)

La Ionica Pays For Misleading Label (ABC Rural News)

Outrage over egg industry's definition of free-range. (Sydney Morning Herald, Sept. 15, 2011)

'Free to roam' poultry producers taken to court. (ABC News, Sept. 9, 2011)

Click here to read more of the latest labelling news.

Submit your product and get involved

Producers or Certifiers

If you have an accreditation scheme which covers cattle, pigs, sheep or poultry, or if your product is accredited by a standard, and it is not available on the consumer guide please complete a survey so that the standards can be added.  Alternatively, please contact us and we can send you a hard copy of the survey to complete.

Click here to complete an online survey


If the product you buy is not in the consumer guide, write to ask them to complete the survey or provide us with their details.

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