Consumers duped by free-range claims

The Minister for Agriculture confirmed today that eggs from farms with stocking densities exceeding 1500 per hectare are currently marketed in Western Australia as “free range.”

Greens Spokesperson for animals, Lynn MacLaren MLC said “I was appalled to learn that the Minister will not oppose the move by the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL) to institute a legally binding definition of “free range” in relation to laying hens to include a maximum stocking density of 20,000 birds per hectare.”

“AECL also proposes that free range hens be allowed to be confined inside sheds for the first 25 weeks of their lives -- even though they begin laying eggs at 18 weeks old and currently go outside from about 5-6 weeks of age.”

“Traditional independent free range producers are quite rightly horrified by AECL's proposal. The push appears to have come from large influential battery producers who want to diversify their operations to include 'free range' to cash in on the trend of consumers shunning cruel cage eggs.”

“Surely the free range egg industry deserves the Minister’s support?”

“If consumers do not have confidence that eggs labelled free range are indeed from farms with low stocking densities, they are likely to stop buying eggs all together. This places WA’s egg industry at risk.”

“My guess is that the Minister believes consumers don’t care. He is going to be proven terribly wrong.”

“The opposition of Australian consumers to animal cruelty is evidenced by the explosion in annual sales of free range eggs in recent years from 19.4 million dozen back in 2006 to 34.8 million in 2010.”