State consumer affairs ministers agreed on Friday there should be a national standard that restricts which farms can use the label.
The decision follows findings released by Choice earlier this week that revealed 213 million eggs sold in Australia last year under the ‘free range’ label failed to meet consumers’ expectations of the free range claim and fell short of the national model code of practice.
The report also found consumers pay nearly double the amount for free range eggs compared to caged.
“This is a massive win for consumers and a significant step towards stopping the free range rip off,” said Matt Levey, Choice director of campaigns and communications.
“Consumers want labels that make sense and deliver on their promises. Eighty four per cent of egg buyers agree that a mandatory national standard is needed and today their voices were heard,” Levey said.
The Egg Farmers of Australia has also endorsed the national approach to egg labelling.
Egg Farmers of Australia, spokesman, John Coward said a national approach would help build consumer confidence in eggs as well as clarity and certainty for egg farmers.
“We want to make sure consumers get what they are paying for. But some people in this debate are forgetting about the rights of egg farmers, who are the experts when it comes to farming. Investment in the free range sector appears to have slowed because of the lack of clarity around the definition of free range,” Coward.
“However, we don’t want to rush into a new labelling system without proper consultation with egg farmers to ensure we get the details right,” he said.
Earlier this week, Egg Farmers of Australia presented Minister Dominello with a new definition of free range agreed to unanimously by the State Egg representative bodies that compromise EFA.
The new definition is: ‘Laying hens in free range farming systems are unconfined within a ventilated hen house. They have access to and are free to roam and forage on an outdoor range area during daylight hours in a managed environment.’
Coward said he hoped for an outcome that would ensure existing free range egg farmers could continue farming to accepted principles.
“But I also hope organisations like Choice will be more accurate in their commentary on this important debate as their misinformation only confuses consumers.”