The Greens (WA) have urged consumers to check the labelling on the cartons when considering buying free-range eggs.
New laws came into place this month that required all egg packages to prominently display the stocking density of hens. Producers must use a maximum density of 10,000 hens per hectare to earn free-range accreditation.
Free-range hens must also have meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during daylight hours and be able to roam and forage.
Unpackaged eggs, like those sold at farmers’ markets, must be accompanied by signage with the stocking density printed on it.
But while welcoming the mandatory labelling, Greens (WA) agriculture spokesperson Diane Evers said the party believes the guidelines for the definition of “free-range” don’t go far enough.
“It’s much higher than stocking densities proposed by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council model code of practice, published by the CSIRO, which recommends just 1500 hens per hectare,” she said.
“The national standard also largely maintains the status quo on battery farming and bird density while ignoring the latest evidence on the wellbeing of birds in farming.”
The new laws came into effect after a 12-month transition, passing federal parliament in April 2017.
“I would encourage consumers who support free range to make sure they check the labelling on their egg cartons and choose densities of no more than 1500 birds,” Ms Evers said.
Ms Evers said the enforceable policy meant the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) can prosecute producers who break the rules.
She said the labelling only referred to densities, and not other aspects of welfare such as de-beaking or forced moulting.
“People can contact the Department of Consumer Affairs if they find free range eggs on sale that don’t show stocking density on the sign/carton,” she said.
“Or you can send photos and details of offenders to this office, and we will forward them on to relevant authorities.”