Egg producer prosecuted over free range claim

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The legal campaign to prosecute egg farmers making false free range claims is heating up in Australia. The legal campaign to prosecute egg farmers making false free range claims is heating up in Australia. The legal campaign to prosecute egg farmers making false free range claims is heating up in Australia.

One of Western Australia’s largest egg producers, Snowdale Holdings (Snowdale), has been found guilty of misleading consumers that its eggs are ‘free range’, the Federal Court has ruled.


Snowdale supplied eggs falsely labelled as free range to suppliers in Western Australia under the brands Eggs by Ellah, Swan Valley Free Range and Wanneroo Free Range.

It also promoted its eggs as free range on the Eggs by Ellah website from May 2013.

Snowdale represented that the eggs were laid by hens which were able to, and did, go outdoors and roam freely on an open range on most days, the court found.

"There is no suggestion in the images and get up used on any of the Snowdale egg carton labels that the laying hens are housed in steel industrial style sheds about 100m long and that the hens in those sheds would have to compete with another 12,000 or 17,000 other hens, before the hens could even exit the shed to enter an open range," Justice Siopis noted In his judgment.

Most of the hens from the Snowdale sheds did not move around on an open range, because the farming conditions significantly inhibited them from doing so, between April 2011 and December 2013.

The proceedings were brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and chairman Rod Sims is unimpressed.

"Consumers expect that when they purchase eggs promoted as ‘free range’ they are getting eggs from hens that actually go outside," Sims says.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, implementation of a compliance program, corrective notices and costs — a date for a hearing on relief is yet to be determined.

The Federal Court also imposed a penalty of $300,000 on Derodi and Holland Farms on similar charges in April this year.

This case forms part of the ACCC’s broader work in the area of free range claims made by egg producers.

Commonwealth, State and Territory Consumer Affairs Ministers agreed to the introduction of a national information standard under the Australian Consumer Law in March this year, requiring eggs labelled as free range to have been laid by hens with regular access to the outdoors and with a maximum outdoor stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare or less.

The CSIRO has put forward a voluntary code recommending a maximum outdoor stocking density of just 1,500 hens per hectare.

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