The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Derodi and Holland Farms for falsely branding its eggs as "free range". In reality, the hens are mostly kept indoors and are unable to move about freely.
Eggs picture from Shutterstock
The ACCC will allege in court that Derodi and Holland Farms misled customers with a range of bogus "free range" egg products, including Ecoeggs and Field Fresh Free Range Eggs. These products were advertised as being farmed in conditions which allowed hens to move about freely on an open range on ordinary days. Similar claims were made on the supplier's website, Facebook page and a Twitter account as well as the egg cartons.
According to the ACCC's allegations, the hens that produce these eggs were unable to move freely on an open range because of the farming practices and conditions of the farms they were kept in.
"The ACCC considers that free range means more than animals just having potential access to the outdoors," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. "Consumers expect free range to mean animals genuinely can and do go outside on most days."
This isn't the first time a "free range" egg supplier has come under fire for deceiving the public. Less than three months ago, Pirovic Enterprises was fined $300,000 by the ACCC for selling eggs in a carton labelled “free range” with pictures of hens on open pasture. This was rarely the case for its real hens.
It should also be noted that the phrase "free range" is problematic even when the rules are adhered to: there’s still no single recognised standard for what "free range" means, and the definition frequently shifts in each state.
For example, Queensland now allows farms with up to 10,000 birds per hectare to describe their produce as "free range", up from a previous limit of 1500. The Australian Egg Corporation (AEC) wants to double this figure to a maximum of 20,000 birds per hectare.
In other words, you need to take these labels with a grain of salt. Chances are, those "free range" birds aren't strutting around in a barnyard like the packaging suggests.