“The egg market is awash with dodgy packaging and questionable claims designed to convince consumers to pay a price premium without delivering the promised conditions to chooks,” said CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland, criticising claims at Parliament House in Canberra.
“Consumers are clearly willing to pay more for eggs with the ‘free-range’ label, and unfortunately there is a clear financial incentive for some producers to take advantage of this without delivering a genuine free-range product.
“That’s why we need a strong response in the form of a nationally enforceable standard,” said Kirkland.
CHOICE has warned consumers to watch out for egg brands that promote chook-cams displaying limited footage of the farm. It has also warned against egg brands that depict a generic healthy lifestyle on their packaging instead of showing real pictures of farm conditions.
“Chook-cams can be particularly insidious – they imply that companies are doing the right thing by letting consumers see into the farm but it’s not hard to find examples of edited footage or very limited camera coverage,” he said.
In one case, CHOICE tracked a “free-range” chook-cam over 2.5 days, taking screen shots every few hours and saw only two chickens venturing outside.
CHOICE’s research has shown that 213 million eggs were sold as free-range in 2014 that did not meet consumers’ expectations. When CHOICE asked consumers, 88 per cent said they wanted a free-range egg standard that allows them to differentiate between genuine free-range eggs and eggs that fall short of their expectations.
The consumer group’s research highlights consumers’ desire for a strong and meaningful free-range egg standard in Australia that would recognise the need for hens to regularly go outside, have room to move inside and outside, and for farmers to undertake animal welfare practices.