Choice said the consultation paper, released by the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP on behalf of the nation’s consumer affairs ministers, “paints a clear picture of the current free range farce and identifies options for unscrambling the problem”.
“As the consultation paper shows, an increasing number of Australians are paying a premium for eggs labelled free range without having any certainty they’re getting what they pay for,” Matt Levey, Choice’s director of campaigns and communications, said.
“In the absence of a national, enforceable standard for free range, it is relatively easy to mislead consumers, and unfortunately there is a financial incentive for some producers to do so. The result is that consumers lose, as do producers of genuine free range eggs,” Levey said.
The consultation follows a Choice investigation in June this year estimating a minimum of 213 million eggs sold in Australia last year under the ‘free range’ label failed to meet consumers’ expectations of the free range claim.
“Based on consumers’ expectations, it’s estimated Australians could be paying between $21-$43 million per year for eggs that aren’t the real deal,” Levey said.
“It’s a rip off that distorts the market and undermines competition, and that’s why it’s so important that governments step in and agree a genuine free range standard that reflects what consumers expect.
“Our research has shown that 84 per cent of egg buyers agree that a mandatory national standard is needed while only two per cent did not believe there should be a standard. Clearly it’s time to get cracking.”