New free range egg guidelines disastrous for animal welfare and consumer rights

A national agreement which allows eggs from farms with up to 10,000 hens per hectare to be labelled free range represents not only a breach of consumer trust, but a huge blow for animal welfare, Greens spokesperson for Animals Lynn MacLaren has said.

“Today’s decision by State and Territory Ministers to allow farms with such a high density of birds to carry free range certification is nothing short of appalling.

“The stocking density agreed today is more than ten times that outlined by the voluntary code developed by CSIRO, which recommends a maximum of 1,500 birds per hectare.

“This is shocking, particularly as research has shown higher densities increase rates of cannibalism and mortality in domesticated chickens.

“There will also now be no truth in labelling meaning consumers who make a point of choosing to buy free range eggs will have no way of knowing that the space allotted each hen is much less than they expect.

“Today’s decision validates the very unfortunate new status quo that free range is virtually any system which is not a cage system. Eggs can now be considered free range if hens are permitted just ‘meaningful access’ to outdoors.

“I am disappointed that the WA Minister for Commerce did not join his ACT counterpart in objecting to this density proposal, particularly after all my hard work over the past four years by way of my Free Range Egg Labelling Bills in 2012 and 2013, to keep this issue at the forefront.”

The Greens will continue to work toward a genuine free range standard. This decision is clearly unacceptable.