The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s new information standard around claims of free range eggs took effect on 26th April 2018.
While opinions differ on what a hen needs to truly range freely, “free range” is defined by the ACCC as a maximum of 10,000 birds per hectare, or one bird per square metre of “outdoor range”. The CSIRO, for example, recommends a stocking density of just 1,500 birds per hectare. To further complicate things, it’s also recognised that “outdoor range” does not guarantee pasture or that birds will choose to access the available “outdoor range” for any significant amount of time each day.
However, where the Australian Consumer Law is concerned, free range egg producers need to comply with the ACCC definition and information standard.
Eggs sold at all retailing outlets, including farmers markets, as free range must now meet the following labelling and signage requirements:
“The Standard requires that if egg producers sell packaged eggs and use the words ‘free range’ on their packaging, they must state the stocking density prominently on the packaging.
“If egg producers sell their eggs unpackaged and use the words ‘free range’, the Standard requires that they prominently display a sign containing the words ‘free range’ and that the sign prominently states the outdoor stocking density. Further, if unpackaged eggs other than ‘free range’ eggs are being displayed at or near the display of ‘free range’ eggs, the display of ‘free range’ eggs must be separate from the display of other eggs, so that a person at or near the displays can reasonably distinguish between ‘free range’ and other eggs.
“[The ACCC] consider that words on packaging or signs are prominent if a person looking at the packaging or signage can easily find and read them.”
from the ACCC Enforcment Guidance document (PDF)
Free range egg producers are also cautioned to be authentic in their use of images to promote their product or risk transgressing the new laws.
Organisers of farmers markets should ensure that all stall holders selling eggs as free range are aware of their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law regarding this information standard. The guide linked to above (PDF download) provides all the necessary information.
Within the free range egg sector, there is controversy over the definition adopted by the ACCC and the distinction of “pastured” is becoming more widely adopted. Free range pastured producers of any kind might be interested in the relatively new certification now available from PROOF – Pasture Raised on Open Fields to distinguish their eggs from high density “outdoor range” products.
Please pass this information on to your stall holders. Any enquiries should be directed to the contacts provided in the various documents and resources.