If you think factory farmers shouldn’t be able to call eggs ‘free range’ when the hens who lay them don’t even get to go outside, this will be welcome news! And it’s all thanks to committed Australians calling for change.
When you consider what the term ‘free range’ should mean in relation to eggs, what comes to mind? It’s safe to say that it probably includes laying hens being able to go outside. But, currently, free range egg labels in Australia don’t actually guarantee that. So this recent announcement by State and Federal Fair Trading Ministers is an encouraging — and overdue — development for people who want to know what their shopping decisions mean for animals.
Following an overwhelming response from Animals Australia supporters, and long-term campaigning from groups including Choice and Humane Society International Australia, the Ministers have agreed that Australia needs a national free range egg labelling standard. And in a move that reflects the depth of community concern on this issue, they set a timeline for a draft to be prepared by the end of 2015.
Without an enforceable national standard, eggs can currently be sold as free range even if the hens who lay them are crammed by the tens of thousands into a shed and have no real access to the outdoors. When 65% of Australians have purchased free range eggs in the last year, it’s a major problem if the label doesn’t even begin to define what they expect it to — and that’s before taking into account the suffering inherent in all commercial egg production.
Factory farmers have already previously been smacked down by the ACCC for attempting to set up a free range accreditation system that would allow 20,000 hens per hectare. That’s more than 10 times as many as the number capped by an industry voluntary code. This decision from the Fair Trading Ministers is a significant step towards meaningful free range labelling that will allow Australians to make more informed shopping choices in line with their values.
What do egg labels mean currently?
Lots of people understandably find Australian egg labels confusing! Here’s our simple guide to making sense of what they really mean for hens:
Beyond free range?
Discover 5 things the egg industry isn’t telling you, and why a growing number of Australians who care about hens (and chicks) are choosing to shift away from eggs towards simple and delicious egg-free options.