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Saskia Beer's Barossa Farm Produce gives undertaking to ACCC for misrepresenting 'Black Pig' products

Written by ACCC on 16 June 2014.

Saskia Beer's Barossa Farm Produce gives undertaking to ACCC for misrepresenting 'Black Pig' products

16 June 2014

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Barossa Farm Produce Pty Ltd (Barossa Farm Produce) for false or misleading representations and misleading or deceptive conduct in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Barossa Farm Produce has acknowledged that representations made on its product labelling, websites, social media, and at a particular cooking class were likely to have contravened sections 18 and 29(1)(a) of the ACL.

Between about 9 December 2010 and 28 May 2013, Barossa Farm Produce made various representations that the pork used in its “The Black-Pig” smallgoods was from:

  • heritage Berkshire pigs, or other heritage black pig breeds; and/or
  • free range pigs,

when that was not the case.

Black pig breeds, which include Berkshire pigs, are heritage breeds.  Berkshire pork is known for its texture and flavour due to a higher fat-to-meat ratio than white pig breeds, qualities that make Berkshire pork a premium meat product.

Ms Saskia Beer, Barossa Farm Produce’s sole director, also made representations at an Autumnal Cooking Class held at the Maggie Beer Farm Shop in April 2013 that the pork used in “The Black-Pig” smallgoods was from Berkshire or other black pig breeds, when that was not the case.

A statement made on the websites www.saskiabeer.com and www.barossafarmproduce.com that “we know the origin of every animal that makes its way onto the plate” in relation to “The Black-Pig” smallgoods was also misleading, as Barossa Farm Produce did not in fact know the origin of every animal used in those products.

Barossa Farm Produce has provided the ACCC with a court-enforceable undertaking that it will not make any representations:

  • about the breed or type of pigs used in Black Pig labelled smallgoods, in circumstances where it does not know the breed or type of pigs used; and
  • that it knows the origin of every animal used in the production of Black Pig labelled smallgoods, in circumstances where it does not know the origin of every animal used.

"A business must not make claims about the characteristics of its products when it has no reasonable basis for doing so.” Mr Sims said. "False credence claims in respect of food products are a priority area for the ACCC."

“Barossa Farm Produce made false or misleading claims that Berkshire, Black, or free range pork was used in its Black Pig products, when this was not the case. This had the potential to give Barossa Farm Produce an unfair advantage in the market, as consumers are likely to seek out and pay more for products containing specialised gourmet ingredients."
As part of the court-enforceable undertaking, Barossa Farm Produce has also:

  • acknowledged that it did not have adequate systems in place to verify the breed or type of pig used in “The Black-Pig” smallgoods; 
  • undertaken to review its compliance systems to ensure such conduct does not reoccur; and
  • undertaken to publish a corrective notice on its website, and ensure that its current directors attend trade practices compliance training.

A copy of the undertaking is available on the ACCC’s public register.

Release number: 
NR 144/14
Media enquiries: 
Media team - 1300 138 917
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Free-range eggs: States, territories to try to agree on national code to stamp out misleading products

Written by Amy Bainbridge on 13 June 2014.

By consumer affairs reporter Amy Bainbridge

State and territory governments will today be asked to agree to develop a national code for free-range eggs in a bid to stamp out misleading marketing and misinformation about the welfare of chickens.

Last year, an investigation by New South Wales Fair Trading found the rules for classifying eggs are ambiguous and that some of the most expensive free-range eggs have the highest stocking densities for chickens on farms.

Only the ACT and Queensland have standards for free-range and there is no enforceable national standard.

In the ACT, a stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare can be called free-range and Queensland recently raised its definition from 1,500 to 10,000 birds per hectare.

Coles has adopted a maximum stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare for its own brand free-range eggs.

While the CSIRO's current model code of practice recommends a maximum of 1,500 birds per hectare, the investigation by NSW Fair Trading found that farms are commonly stocked at 20,000 chickens per hectare when they carry the free-range label.

A voluntary industry code allows stocking densities of up to 20,000 birds per hectare with guidelines on stock rotation, grass cover and access to shade.

Consumers face considerable confusion: NSW Fair Trading

NSW Commissioner for Fair Trading Rod Stowe says the current system is not good enough.

"Essentially it determined that there was potential for consumer detriment as a consequence of misrepresentations made in the way that free-range eggs were labelled," Mr Stowe told the ABC.

"We were particularly concerned that there was considerable confusion for consumers when it came to making those purchases and there was no clear definition of what free-range meant, so that one package may be very different in the type of production of those eggs compared to another."

NSW Fair Trading says a national code would be policed under Australian Consumer Law.

"I think, for consumers, it's one of those areas where they themselves can't test the veracity of those claims – they're very much dependent on the labelling," Mr Stowe said.

"While there are model codes for the way in which eggs are produced, there's still a lot of potential for difference and those codes aren't enforceable.

"They can be quite significant, in terms of those stocking densities, and there are considerable views in the way in which the code can be interpreted.

"I think, at the end of the day, it is really hard for anyone to determine how eggs are being produced in terms of the current labelling arrangements."

Consumer advocate Christopher Zinn says it is time the issue is sorted out.

"It's up to the regulators really to put the bit between their teeth and let's finally sort out this free-range mess," he told the ABC.

"All I want to see is a transparency in the market and a definition.

"There's been an endless debate about animal welfare and some people think they taste differently. What's important is that free-range actually means something.

"People have been kicking this into the long grass and saying it's too hard for too long. I think that's just a ridiculous notion. There's now a chance to achieve something."

Mass-produced eggs need to be called something else: farmers

Farmer Tania Murray from Hallora, east of Melbourne, has about 430 chickens on 1.2 hectares of land.

She sells about 300 dozen eggs each week at the local farmers' markets and is certified by Humane Choice as a free-range farmer.

"I think this is what consumers think is free-range when you say that you sell free-range eggs," she told the ABC.

"Humane Choice are the people that I'm accredited with. They come out and have a look – they're big on no de-beaked chickens, no mutilations of any sort, they have to be as they were hatched," she said.

"They come and check that the chickens can dust bathe and they're free to move about outside.

"I think what I've got here is the true free-range that consumers want, but if you've got 10,000 or 20,000 chickens on the same area there will be no grass left and it would just be a mud pit over winter.

"And if you've got more chickens that need to be de-beaked or beak trimmed, then just call it something else."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already taken court action against two egg producers for allegedly misleading consumers by using the term free-range.

John Coward from Queensland United Egg Producers says he can see the value in having a national standard.

"I think for the sake of clarity and accuracy and transparency for the consumer I can see the reason why we would want to have a national standard so it doesn't matter where you're buying your eggs, they're of a standard and out of production system that everybody's got comfort and confidence in," he told the ABC.

"I think that the model code of practice – which is currently under review and it's been 12 years since the last review – did set an appropriate standard, but it was probably not quite clear enough and it's not enforceable in every state's legislation. That's been the problem.

"From a Queensland perspective, we did set an upper limit of 10,000 birds per hectare, which is one per square metre, and we think that's appropriate. But it must be underpinned by outcomes on that farm.

"So the number becomes immaterial to some degree – it's about providing the adequate space for the birds to do their natural behaviour. It provides for the opportunity to keep the pasture clean and free of noxious weeds, provide adequate shade and adequate access from the shed, so the birds can get out and roam freely.

"While I do support a national standard, I really think when the ministers meet they should be really looking at an outcome-based set of legislation, which goes into the new review of the model code of practice.

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ACCC takes action following alleged egg cartel attempt

Written by ACCC on 28 May 2014.

28 May 2014

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against:

  • the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL);
  • Mr James Kellaway, the managing director of AECL;
  • two egg producing companies, Ironside Management Services Pty Ltd (trading as Twelve Oaks Poultry) (Twelve Oaks Poultry) and Farm Pride Foods Limited (Farm Pride);
  • Mr Jeffrey Ironside, a director of AECL and Twelve Oaks Poultry; and
  • Mr Zelko Lendich, a director of AECL and a former director of Farm Pride.

The ACCC alleges that AECL and the other corporate and individual respondents attempted to induce egg producers who were members of AECL to enter into an arrangement to cull hens or otherwise dispose of eggs, for the purpose of reducing the amount of eggs available for supply to consumers and businesses in Australia.  It is not alleged that this attempt to make a cartel arrangement involving Australian egg producers was successful.   

AECL is an industry corporation that collects levies for promotional activities and research and development activities from member egg producers.  At the relevant time, AECL had between 100 and 150 egg producer members.

The ACCC alleges that from November 2010, in AECL member publications, the AECL board (which included Mr Kellaway, Mr Ironside and Mr Lendich) encouraged its members to reduce egg production, in order to avoid oversupply which would affect egg prices.

It is also alleged that, in February 2012, AECL held an ‘Egg Oversupply Crisis Meeting’ attended by egg producers in Sydney, where it allegedly sought a coordinated approach by egg producers to reducing the supply of eggs, in response to a perceived oversupply of eggs. Mr Kellaway and Mr Lendich both attended and spoke at this meeting, which was chaired by Mr Ironside. 

“Retail egg sales, one of many sales channels, were valued at over $566 million in 2012* and eggs are a staple food product for Australian consumers. Indeed, egg consumption per capita has increased in the past 10 years leading to an increase in the demand for producers’ eggs. The ACCC is concerned that the alleged attempt sought to obtain agreement by egg producers to reduce supply, which if successful could have impacted on  egg prices paid by consumers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said. 

“Detecting, stopping and deterring cartels operating in Australian markets remain an enduring priority for the ACCC, because of the ultimate impact of such anti-competitive conduct on Australian consumers who will pay more than they should for goods.”

“Industry associations need to be conscious of competition compliance issues when they bring competing firms together. Today’s action sends a clear message that attempts by industry associations to coordinate anti-competitive behaviour by competitors will not be tolerated,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, orders that AECL, Farm Pride and Twelve Oaks establish and maintain a compliance program and that Mr Kellaway, Mr Ironside and Mr Lendich attend compliance training, an adverse publicity order and a community service order against AECL, disqualification orders against Mr Kellaway, Mr Ironside and Mr Lendich, and costs.

Background

The 2012/13 AECL annual report* indicates that the egg industry in Australia in 2012:

  • produced 397 million dozen eggs (of which 134.3 million dozen was sold in the grocery/retail market);
  • consisted of 301 egg farms;
  • had a gross value for egg production at farm gate of $583.4 million per annum for 2011/12; and
  • had a gross value for egg production at market for 2012 of $1.672 billion.
Release number: 
MR 127/14
Media enquiries: 
Media team - 1300 138 917
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Free range pigs with plenty of space are in running for delicious produce awards race

Written by Daily Telegraph on 13 May 2014.

Free-range pigs with plenty of space are in running for delicious. produce awards race

  • The Daily Telegraph
  • May 13, 2014 8:58AM

Matt and Sue Simmons of Melanda Park, 70km northwest of Sydney, have been nominated in th

Top stuff: Matt and Sue Simmons of Melanda Park, 70km northwest of Sydney, have been nominated in the delicious. produce awards for their free-range pigs. Source: Supplied

PIG farming has had some bad press of late, taking some of the shine off the care and attention farmers Matt and Sue Simmons pay to their Melanda Park pork which was named yesterday as a finalist in the delicious. magazine produce awards.

Based 70km northwest of Sydney, the farm is one of several NSW finalists in the annual awards judged by Sydney chefs Matt Moran, Christine Manfield and Guillaume Brahimi, plus South Australia’s Maggie Beer and Melbourne’s Shannon Bennett. State judges are chefs Martin Boetz and Alex Herbert.

The list is whittled down from more than 3000 reader-nominated products, regions and producers to a list of 122 finalists across Australia, over 14 categories of primary and artisan producers.

The introduction of free-range pigs to Melanda Park farm is relatively recent and was first done to help manage the removal of leftover potatoes from paddocks in 2008.

Now Melanda Park pork is among the prized produce up for the delicious. awards this year.

Matt is now passionate about raising happy, healthy pigs in small family groups which are free to graze pasture, root soil and build nests for their young.

“I really fell into it by accident. I certainly didn’t set out to be a pig farmer,” Matt Simmons told Sydney Taste yesterday after the nominations were announced.

“The restaurants come here and see it for themselves. If you look beside the welfare of free-range pig, there is a cleaner taste in pasture-grown pork. If they live in squalor they taste like it.”

The Simmons now supply pork to retailers Feather & Bone in Marrickville and Chop Shop in Hurlstone Park, plus restaurants Omeggio at The Spit, Colin Fassnidge’s 4fourteen and 4 in Hand restaurants, Bishop Sessa and Nomad in Surry Hills and Pilu at Freshwater.

“It’s the way a pig should live,” says Giovanni Pilu. “He looks after them exactly the same way my grandfather did in Sardinia.”

Pilu says consistency is key and he is now dealing directly with the farm to supply the 20-35 suckling pigs he needs a week.

“For the farmers it’s important to have that kind of security,” he says.

Winners will be announced on July 14, and the August issue of delicious.

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ACCC Instututes proceedings against free range egg producers [Swan Valley, Eggs by Ellah, Pirovic]

Written by ACCC on 10 December 2013.

ACCC institutes proceedings against free range egg producers

10 December 2013

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has filed separate proceedings in the Federal Court against egg producers in WA and NSW alleging that each of the producer’s use of “free range” was misleading.

The ACCC alleges that Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd (Snowdale) in WA and Pirovic Enterprises Pty Ltd (Pirovic) in NSW, through the use of words and images, made false, misleading or deceptive representations by the images and wording on their egg cartons and websites to the effect that the eggs supplied and labelled as “free range” were produced:

  • by hens that were farmed in conditions so that the laying hens were able to move about freely on an open range every day; and/or
  • by hens, most of which moved about freely on an open range on most days.

The ACCC alleges that the eggs supplied by each of Snowdale and Pirovic were produced by hens that were not able to move about freely on an open range each day because of the:

  • stocking densities of the barns the hens were housed in;
  • physical openings of the barns;
  • conditions of the outdoor range; and/or
  • manner in which the hens were trained in the barns. 

The ACCC also alleges that the eggs supplied by each of Snowdale and Pirovic were produced by hens most of which did not move about freely on an open range on most days.

“The ACCC does not have a role in determining whether particular farming practices are appropriate and the ACCC is not debating the merits of cage, barn or free range systems,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“The ACCC’s concern is simply to ensure that the labelling of eggs accurately reflect the particular farming practices of the producer and the expectations of a consumer making purchasing choices based on those representations.”

“Credence claims such as free range, organic, place of origin or country of origin are all powerful tools for businesses to distinguish their products, but misleading consumers who may pay a premium to purchase such products damages the market and is unfair to competitors.”

“These matters form part of a continuing investigation by the ACCC into free range claims made by egg producers, which has involved the ACCC serving substantiation notices on a number of egg producers that supply eggs labelled as free range,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, implementation of compliance programs, corrective notices and costs against each producer.

The Snowdale proceedings are set down for a directions hearing in Perth on 23 January 2014. The Pirovic proceedings are set down for a directions hearing in Sydney on 4 February 2014.

Background

Snowdale is one of Western Australia’s largest egg producers. It produces eggs labelled as cage eggs, barn laid eggs and free range eggs to various retailers. Pirovic is one of the largest independent egg producers in New South Wales and supplies eggs labelled as cage, barn laid, free range and organic free range and a variety of liquid egg products to retailers nationally.

In April 2013 the ACCC served substantiation notices on a number of egg producers that supplied eggs labelled as free range. A substantiation notice requires a person or business to give information or produce documents that could be capable of substantiating or supporting a claim or representations made in trade of commerce. Following that process and wider investigation, the ACCC is concerned that there are attributes of the farming systems used by some egg producers that indicate that the eggs should not be labelled as free range.

The ACCC considers that a free range claim by any producer is a representation that the eggs were produced by hens that were able to move freely on an open range each day and most of the hens did in fact move freely on that open range.

The ACCC understands that there are a number of farming conditions that impact on whether hens are able to, and do, move freely on an open range each day. The conditions (and their impact) vary between producers and no single condition of itself is conclusive. The relevant conditions include:

  • the internal stocking density of sheds;
  • the conditions of the internal areas the hens are housed in;
  • the number, size and location of any openings to an outdoor area;
  • the time of the day and how regularly the openings are opened;
  • the size and condition of the outdoor area, including any shaded areas, the presence of food, water and different vegetation and ground conditions;
  • the stocking density of any outdoor area; and
  • whether the hens have been trained or conditioned to remain indoors.
Release number: 
MR 288/13
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Court orders fines of $400K for false 'free range' claims

Written by Stephanie Zillman in Agri-Business on 06 November 2013.

Two separate judgements handed down by the Federal Court demonstrate how seriously the court takes false ‘free to roam’ claims.

The Federal Court has ordered Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd and Bartter Enterprises Pty Ltd, the processors and suppliers of Steggles branded chicken products, to pay a total of $400,000 in civil pecuniary penalties.

The Court found that Baiada and Bartter had engaged in “false, misleading and deceptive conduct (or conduct liable to mislead and deceive)” by describing the living conditions of its chickens, as “free to roam in large barns”.

In reality, the Court found that for the initial 42 days (of an average 56 day growth cycle) the chickens were kept in stocking densities which did not allow for “a largely uninhibited ability to move around at will in an aimless manner”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which instituted proceedings against Baiada and Bartter in 2011, regularly investigates credence claims.

“Credence claims, which represent that a product possesses a premium attribute, are a priority area for the ACCC; particularly those in the food and beverage industry with the potential to influence consumers and disadvantage competitors,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“Consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions that value the types of claims that directly affect the integrity of the product, such as where or how something was made, grown or produced,” Sims said.

The significant fine coincides with a separate Federal Court decision relating to a duck meat supplier, and its own misleading credence claims.

In a claim brought by the ACCC, Luv-a-Duck was found to have contravened Australian Consumer Law (and former Trade Practices Act) and ordered to pay $360,000 in civil pecuniary penalties, as well as $15,000 towards the ACCC’s costs.

The Court found that on its packaging, website, brochures and in a promotion for the Good Food & Wine Show in Adelaide in 2012, Luv-a-Duck had claimed its ducks were:

  •  ‘grown and grain fed in the spacious Victorian Wimmera Wheatlands’; and/or
  • ‘range reared and grain fed’ (which mainly appeared as a logo).

The ACCC argued that these descriptions represented Luv-a-Duck’s duck meat products were or would be processed from ducks that:

  • spent at least a substantial amount of their time outdoors;
  • were raised in a spacious outdoor environment; and
  • were of a different quality than duck meat products processed from barn-raised ducks, when this was not the case.

The Court found that the duck meat products offered for sale and sold by Luv-a-Duck were in fact processed from ducks that did not spend any of their time outside of their barn.

As a result, the representations unfairly gave the company a competitive advantage in the industry.

“This penalty is a further warning to the poultry industry and businesses generally that consumers are entitled to trust that what is said on product packaging and other promotional product material is true and accurate,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“Traders who abuse the trust of Australian consumers may also find themselves exposed to similar enforcement action,” she added.

In addition to the penalties and costs, the Court also made consent orders:

  • restraining Luv-a-Duck for a period of three years from using the phrases ‘grown and grain fed in the spacious Victorian Wimmera Wheatlands’ and ‘ranged reared and grain fed’ or modifications of those words when its ducks are not raised in such conditions;
  • requiring Luv-a-Duck to publish corrective notices on its website and business premises and send a corrective notice to its customers; and
  • requiring Luv-a-Duck to implement and maintain a trade practices compliance program for three years.

Luv-a-Duck has a market share of 40 per cent of duck meat products in Australia, selling some 80,000 ducks nationwide per week.

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Free Range change labeled unethical

Written by Caitlin Drysdale on 31 August 2013.

QUEENSLANDERS are in a flap over the quality of their free range eggs.

There is a 667 per cent increase in allowed bird stock densities resulting in what many believe is "Clayton's free range eggs".

More than 3000 electronic postcards have been sent to Premier Campbell Newman in the past 10 days, all expressing outrage at the lack of public consultation over the changes.

The Queensland Government has allowed an increase in chicken stock densities from 1500 per hectare to 10,000 per hectare, effective from July.

However, with this allowing just 1sq m of space per bird, there are increased concerns over the chickens' welfare.

Humane Choice Australia is generating the postcards and believes 1500 birds per hectare should be the standard for what is considered free range.

Chief operating officer Lee McCosker was adamant big business is driving the increase in stock densities.

"Coles is driving this change - they want to be able to label 10,000 birds per hectare as free range," she said.

Roy Inwood, owner of Country Range Farming, near Oakey, said his organic egg farm ran 1000 birds per hectare, and he "totally disagreed" with the change in definition of free range to include up to 10,000 birds per hectare.

"They're hoodwinking the public. We're absolutely devastated, it's absolutely shocking," he said. "They're Clayton's free range eggs.

They're what you call a free range egg when you're not having a free range egg."

With many preferring to purchase free range for social conscience reasons, Ms McCosker said Coles needed to be sent a message, however a Coles spokeswoman said the chicken stock density change balanced welfare and weight gain.

"The only thing that will make it happen is when customers stop buying their eggs," Ms McCosker said.

"They have no social or environmental conscience, it's all about profit."

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A Cracking Good Effort

Written by The Islander on 22 August 2013.

A cracking good effort

  • KI Free Range Eggs

    KI Free Range Eggs

Eighteen thousand postcards signed by South Australians were presented to the Minister for Business Services and Consumers John Rau at a Humane Choice free range breakfast last week. The postcards represented consumers determined to endorse truth in labelling for eggs marked ‘free range’, meaning the stocking density would be capped at no more than 1,500 birds per hectare.

“The postcards send a powerful message because they targeted actual free range egg buyers having been distributed in the cartons of eggs produced by our Humane Choice true free range farmers, Lee McCosker, chief operating officer for Humane Choice said.  “The incredible response from the public verifies that free range egg buyers believe the intensification of free range, and systems that restrict or discourage outdoor access for the hens, simply fail to meet their expectations.”

“South Australians are the only consumers in the country that will be given the opportunity to easily identify true free range eggs, making an informed purchasing decision.  Now that genuine free range eggs will be easily identifiable, we hope that this translates into real choices being made available on the shelves of the major supermarkets.  

Throughout the rest of Australia there is still a confusing abundance of free range claims on eggs.  We hope that this move supported by so many thousands of Australians will encourage the other States and the Federal Government, to finally act and put an end to such unnecessary controversy,” Ms McCosker said.

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RSPCA 'not consulted' on free range chicken move

Written by Amy Remeikis on 01 August 2013.

RSPCA 'not consulted' on free range chicken move

Free range hens not so free

Animal rights groups say Queensland has taken a "giant step backwards" by changing the definition of 'free range' from 1,500 to 10,000 hens per hectare.

The state government's consultation process with the RSPCA on the legislative definition of free range chicken was limited to two meetings.

Last month, the government changed the Animal Care and Protection Regulation Act 2012 to allow an increase in stocking densities for free range hens.

Where once 1500 chickens per hectare was the maximum, now 10,000 chickens per hectare can be kept.

A spokesman for Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said the decision was made after a year-long consultation process which involved the Australian Egg Corp Ltd, Queensland United Egg Producers, free range producers and the RSPCA.

But RSPCA Queensland chief executive Mark Townend said the animal welfare group was never “formally consulted” over the 567 per cent increase.

“There was some discussion, but no formal consultation,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr McVeigh said “representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and RSPCA discussed the proposed changes on 15 October 2012 and 24 April 2013”.

Formal consultation usually involves written responses to a discussion paper prepared by a committee, as well as meetings, before formal recommendations are made to the government. The process can take months.

Mr Townend said it was a “positive of this government, they do try and get things done”, but while the RSPCA discussed management and enforcement of the government's conditions attached to the increase, it was not part of any consultation regarding the increase itself.

“The government could have just made the decision anyway, we have seen that happen a number of times before,” Mr Townend said.

“There was a discussion about some of the improvements for the animal welfare standards and the monitoring process and that is a bonus.”

Mr Townend said he supported the increased monitoring attached to the legislation, but “would have preferred not to have the increase in stocking densities”.

The legislative change has added to the confusion over the definition of free range eggs.

Supermarket giant Coles brand free range eggs allow for 10,000 birds per hectare with each bird allowed “at least a square metre of space” outside and “minimum perching space” inside the sheds.

Coles “does not allow our suppliers to clip the wings of birds laying for Coles brand” but does allow for “a bird's beak to be trimmed in order to prevent pecking which can cause welfare issues in flocks” but a spokesman said it was done “in keeping with recommendations from the RSPCA”.

A spokesman from Woolworths released a one line statement in regards to its practices; “when it comes to free range eggs Woolworths comply with the PISC Model Code of Practice prepared by the CSIRO.”

The RSPCA, while recognising companies like Coles that have made the switch from cage to cage-free eggs with a Good Egg Award, only allows its 'RSPCA Approved Farming' logo on products which “meet and maintain” the group's “higher animal welfare standards”.

But Humane Choice CEO Lee McCosker said Queensland had “gone backwards” with its legislative change and contributed to consumers being misled, while impacting on animal welfare.

“It was a giant step backwards,” she said.

“Queenslanders believed that they had the best stocking density, the best standard for hens and they did.

"Fifteen hundred hens is in line with the best animal welfare accreditation standards that Australia has, it set Queensland up and gave them an actual advantage over the rest of the states and could have offered an advantage for producers against the rest of the country, because they could offer genuine free range eggs to consumers.”

Ms McCosker said consumers needed to be smarter about their shopping.

“You have to shop around and start supporting your local farmer's market, butcher, greengrocer and asking them to source from farms which are accredited to 1500 hens per hectare and provide you assurance that the hens are genuinely free range,” she said.

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'Free Range Eggs' definition scrambled

Written by Amy Remeikis on 29 July 2013.

The term ‘free range’ tends to invoke images of chickens happily squawking and scratching their way across green pastures.

The reality is often a lot less romantic.

The Queensland government recently approved an increase in the stocking densities for free range layer hens.  Where once 1500 chickens per hectare was the maximum, now 10,000 chickens per hectare can claim the same label. 

A spokesman for agricultural minister John McVeigh defended the 567 per cent increase as being based on the national Poultry Code “which state governments agreed to implement in 2002”.

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But it could be a boon for marketers, who are still legally able to use the term ‘free range’ to sell eggs from operations which can increase their layer numbers, without having to increase the provided space.

Queensland University of Technology marketing lecturer, Gary Mortimer, said when it came to “low involvement decisions”, like those made in the supermarket, terms like free range could often make up minds.

“In a supermarket we don’t want to take a lot of time, we see the word free – no matter what words come after, we tend to think ‘free range’ and that it must be good,” he Dr Mortimer.

“Consumers need to be a little more careful with some of the marketing messages they see on products today.”

Australian Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said Queenslanders needed to understand what they were buying.

“There is nothing free range about 10,000 hens per hectare, she said.

“As a society we need to be moving towards policies that protect the welfare of animals, not ones that will lead to increased distress, fear, injury, pain and disease.”

Campaigns director of the consumer group Choice, Matt Levey said the Queensland government amendments to the Animal Care and Protection Regulation 2012 Act, jeopardised shopper’s trust.

"Consumers have shown they are willing to pay a premium for 'free-range' eggs and yet changes like this make the term meaningless," he said.

But not all marketing terms are used legally - earlier this month, the federal court ruled in favour of the Australian Consumer Commission, which took two of the nation’s largest poultry  producers to task for using the term ‘free to roam”, when in reality, almost 20 chickens were being kept per square metre. 

While marketers would continue “greying the boundaries”, Dr Mortimer said it came down to self-education and consumers doing their own research.

“To some extent the majority of consumers will still look at brand and the price to make a decision,” he said.

“But there is certainly a growing range of ethical consumers who look a little more deeply at organics, genetically modified, free range, hormone free products, not just for the humane reasons, but also for the health and well being of family and children as well.”

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No More Free Range Eggs in Queensland

Written by Humane Choice on 25 July 2013.

No More Free Range Eggs in Queensland

The Queensland government has quietly brought about changes to state regulations that will now ensure the end of true free range egg production in Queensland.

The QLD government has bowed to the pressure of the corporate giants and sold out Queensland family farms, the egg buying consumer and condemned hens to a life of factory farming misery.

Up until now Queensland was applauded for their regulations that stipulated only 1500 hens per hectare for free range farms.  Queensland egg producers actually had an advantage over the other states that allowed higher stocking densities for free range hens.  South Australia has just followed suite and developed a free range labelling system for producers stocking hens at 1500 or less per hectare. Given the public outrage over the industrialization of free range egg production and the current position on this issue by the ACCC, we are appalled that the QLD government has made this move.

The Queensland government has made a mockery of the Model Code of Practice and is effectively allowing the supermarket giants to act as a regulators for the industry. There is no science and no social conscience behind the decision to destroy the Queensland free range egg industry.

“In a perverse way the QLD government has made it just that much easier to make the right choice when you buy free range eggs.  When purchasing eggs at the supermarket, just look at the where they are packed and boycott any free range eggs produced in Queensland.” Says Lee McCosker from Humane Choice.

If you are a Queenslander buy your eggs from the independent supermarkets, butchers, green grocers or farmers markets and ask for an accreditation that ensures the eggs are truly free range.

“Queenslanders have always felt that they didnt need to get behind the push for a nationally accepted standard of 1500 hens as being free range because they thought that’s what they already had.  It’s never too late to send a message to the QLD Government and voice your disapproval.” McCosker said.

Send a 1500 hen postcard www.humanechoice.com.au/postcard

Contact: Lee McCosker 0412326030