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The Meaning of ‘Free Range’ in South Australia

February 11, 2015

On Monday the 9th of February, the South Australian Cabinet approved the current draft set forward on a voluntary codefor free range eggs, where producers meeting strict conditions will be able to advertise their produce with the approved logo indicating South Australian Free Range Accreditation.

The Australian support for a free range egg movement has been in place for some time now, after a move in 2013demanded that new industry rules should be set to inform customers of exactly what they are buying due to the different standards and definitions of ‘free range’ in different states.

The new, voluntary code dictates that any producer looking to use the free range endorsement, must meet stringent conditions, including:

  • Providing hens with outdoor access during hours of daylight
  • Providing adequate shelter to outdoor hens
  • Ensuring that density does not exceed 1,500 hens within each hectare on outdoor ranges
  • No moulting induced by deprivation of food

Keeping consumers informed

The new draft has lead consumer champions CHOICE to comment for a national standard on free range eggs, stating that, “All Australians deserve greater clarity over free range eggs”.

Although the group are appreciative of the SA certification, they believe that an enforceable national standard is necessary to ensure that all free range eggs meet the expectations set by customers – who are currently frustrated by a lack of clarity and definition.

During June, 2014, territory and state ministers came together to discuss and develop a new standard for information regarding free range eggs. The changes have come following the revelation that although 40% of egg products are marketed as “free range”, many products don’t actually meet the current accepted consumer expectations of what “free range” actually is. As a result, Australians are paying premiums for eggs that do not meet the animal cruelty restrictions they seek to support.

Defining the South Australian standard

There is still a way to go however before the proposed standard is approved in South Australia. According to the SA Minister for Consumers and Business Services, Gail Gago, “An effective and fair regulatory scheme cannot be made or implemented in haste, and there is still more work to be done.”

The minister claimed that work would be taking place with egg producers and stakeholders to receive insight on the new trademark and voluntary code draft, while IP Australia examines the trademark to determine that it doesn’t conflict with any existing entities. At the same time, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) will need to ensure that using the trademark won’t damage the public in regards to product safety, unfair practices, concerns with competition or unconscionable conduct.