The SA ‘true free range’ egg industry is in jeopardy thanks to years of inaction from the Weatherill Labor Government on its voluntary labelling scheme and a pending national decision that may well advantage the ‘fake range’ players in the industry, Greens employment spokesperson Tammy Franks MLC says.
Ms Franks asked questions of the Minister for Employment in Parliament today.
“It is estimated that more than half of South Australia’s producers are true free range egg producers – those with a stocking density of less than 1500 hens per hectare - including many small producers,” Ms Franks said.
“At present these producers are having to compete with ‘fake range’ producers – those with much larger stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare, but labelling their cartons free range.
“In Queensland, the move away from the 1500 stocking density figure and the adoption of the 10,000 hens per hectare standard saw the true free range part of the sector go to the wall. True free range was unable to compete and squeezed out – and I fear we are about to see the same here in South Australia - unless we act urgently.
“Despite promises of a voluntary labelling scheme for true free range in our state by the Weatherill Government back in 2013, we have yet to see a single state-labelled true free range egg on our supermarket or shop shelves.
“This is despite true free range egg production generating three to four times the number of jobs that producers of a comparable size with higher stocking densities do. Free range is better for the animals and better for local jobs.
“With a national decision soon to be made that looks unlikely to give this sector the protection and consumer clarity needed to sustain it, the future of true free range producers is in serious danger. Will the Minister undertake to investigate other measures to support those in the true free range egg sector?” Ms Franks asked.
The South Australian industry code proposed by the Government in 2013 defined strict guidelines for “free range”, including a stocking density of no more than 1,500 layer hens per hectare on the outdoor range, hens having unrestricted access to outdoor areas during daylight hours, outdoor areas with adequate shelter and a prohibition on induced moulting.