The Greens and the Humane Society (HIS) have welcomed a move by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) against a NSW company that markets so-called Ecoeggs.
HSI submitted a formal complaint to the ACCC in March 2012 after its investigations revealed that Ecoeggs and the associated Port Stephens egg brand may have been falsely labelling eggs as free range and displaying the Australian Egg Corporation’s Egg Corp Assured logo on the packaging.
Details of the deceptive operation of these egg brands were also supplied to the head offices of Australia’s major supermarkets, yet according to HSI they chose to continue stocking the contentious produce and have taken no action.
‘True free range egg farmers, who follow the guidelines of the Model Code of Practice and stock no more than 1,500 hens per hectare and where the birds are kept in conditions where they can move around freely on an open range every day, are being let down by larger producers taking advantage of the system,’ said Verna Simpson, HSI Director.
‘Consumers are buying these eggs with the expectation that the birds are free to roam and have access to the outdoors unrestricted. They are being deceived.’
Meanwhile Greens Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the ACCC’s announcement that it would be launching proceedings against Ecoeggs ‘adds to calls for the proposed national legislated standard to meet consumers’ expectations of animal welfare’.
‘The ACCC’s announcement today takes us a step closer to bringing clarity to the free range marketplace and ensuring consumer expectation is being protected.’
Dr Kaye said: ‘Ecoeggs markets itself as a premium free-range producer, but behind the shiny packaging lies a life of alleged misery for their hens.
‘The ACCC has found that many of the hens were not even able move freely or go outside.
‘Ecoeggs may become the highest profile scalp claimed by the ACCC in their campaign to weed out producers misusing the free-range label as a marketing tool.
‘Ecoeggs has been a star performer in using marketing to convince customers that their eggs came from happy hens, including using a novelty ‘chookcam.’
‘Despite being awarded the Shonky award by Choice in 2013 for misleading free-range claims, Ecoeggs has continued to market its products to consumers who care about animal welfare.
‘Ecoegg products are stocked in stores across the country, including by the major retailers Coles and Woolworths.
‘If Coles and Woolworths have a shred of respect for their shoppers they would immediately pull Ecoeggs from their shelves.
‘In June this year the NSW Fair Trading Minister Matthew Mason Cox made a commitment in parliament to take into account any ACCC findings in drafting the national legislated standard for free-range eggs.
‘Considering the profile of Ecoeggs and the alleged scale of their deception, the Minister must consult with the ACCC before taking his draft standard to the COAG meeting next April.