Choosing to eat free-range chicken often has as much to do with wanting to know those chooks haven’t been raised in cramped conditions as with the taste of the end result. So it’s unsurprising that the ACCC has taken a stack of couple of providers to court for what it says are “misleading” claims about their chickens.
What’s the ACCC’s beef? (Sorry about the pun, couldn’t resist.) It says that two providers — Steggles and La Ionica — and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation have been suggesting in marketing that chickens get more space than they actually do. Specifically, it says claims that “Steggles meat chickens are raised in barns with substantial space available allowing them to roam freely” and that “La Ionica brand meat chickens [are]able to roam freely in barns with substantial space and in conditions equivalent to a free range system” don’t hold up because “the population density of meat chickens raised in barns preclude such movement”. In other words: the chooks might not be stuck in cages but they are still pretty crowded. I imagine the chicken providers will argue against that when the case hits the Federal Court.
The ACCC keeps a pretty close eye on this sort of thing, having busted a provider of free-range eggs earlier this year. None of this means that you shouldn’t go for free-range food if that’s your preference — the point of having a regulator is to ensure companies can’t be deceptive about the actual circumstances in which that food is produced. We’ll keep an eye on this one and see how it pans out.