Cracking the free range egg code

The establishment of a national free range egg standard has been welcomed by industry lobby groups and farmers.

Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, and her state and territory counterparts agreed on a new national standard on Thursday at the fourth Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs.

The announcement followed an extensive consultation process which began in October 2015 with nearly 10,000 consumers, farmers, retailers and advocacy groups providing input.

Ms O’Dwyer said the new reforms will help improve consumers’ information and confidence when they purchase free range eggs.

“Currently there is no single national definition of free range eggs. The new information standard for free range eggs will require hens to have meaningful and regular access to the outdoors, with outdoor stocking of no more than one hen per square metre (maximum 10,000 hens per hectare),” Ms O’Dwyer said.

As part of the reforms, farmers of free range eggs will also be required to prominently disclose their outdoor stocking density of their hens, allowing consumers to easily choose their preference.

John Coward, spokesperson for Egg Farmers Australia, said the decision was a “common sense resolution to what has been an unnecessarily complicated issue”.

“For any consumers who have been confused about what they are buying this information standard should end that confusion. Free range hens are free. They are free from cages, free to move about inside the barn and importantly they are free to go outside if and when they choose to.

“The decision by Ministers to define free range hens as having meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range where they are free to roam and forage brings common sense to an emotional debate. Choice for hens is the winner on the basis of this definition,” Mr Coward said.

HE said consumers have also secured a win, with new requirement for stocking density to be mandated on pack, shoppers will be empowered through choice.

“Most importantly for industry this provides certainty. The debate on free range has delayed investment in new farms and has placed a hand-break on innovation and productivity.”

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