Greens SA MLC, Tammy Franks, has condemned today’s decision by State and Federal Ministers to define free range eggs as up to 10,000 birds per hectare as one that will “advantage the ‘fake range’ players in the industry, and drive true free range producers out of business”. Ms Franks will put her bill to label shop and supermarket shelves to vote when Parliament resumes in late April.
“This is a shocking decision for true free range consumers, producers and hens alike. It’s no wonder Choice has responded with boycott on ‘fake range’.
“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. They have just been thrown to the wolves by this decision. 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 label their cartons free range., We had hoped today’s decision would have ended that unfair playing field.
“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.
“It’s a no-brainer. True free range is better for consumers, hens and jobs. True free range egg production generates three to four times the number of jobs that producers of a comparable size with higher stocking densities do. It also matches what consumers expect they are paying more for.
“With a national decision failing to give this sector the protection and consumer clarity it needs, the future of true free range producers is in serious danger. South Australia’s Parliament can now step up and give local consumers and industry the certainty they require and support local jobs in true free range egg sector. I expect strong opposition from the big chain supermarkets, as their eggs are ‘fake range’ and no free range.
“In SA, the Greens will test the parliament support for real consumer clarity and choice. We will push our bill to label the shelves in our shops and supermarkets, as has been operating in the ACT for some years, to a vote. This overcomes constitutional barriers and would be more enforceable that a voluntary code” Ms Franks concluded.
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.