CHOICE cracking down on free range

CHOICE pushing forward on a crackdown for free-range eggs.

Following a Federal Court crackdown on a Queensland egg producer, advocacy group CHOICE is pushing forward the need for a national standard to prevent egg producers from misleading customers by incorrectly promoting their eggs.

On Monday, the Federal Court fined Darling Downs Fresh Eggs $250,000 for purposely mislabelling and promoting its eggs as ‘free range’ from December 2013 to October 2014.

“If birds aren’t going outside, don’t label them as free range,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said.

Darling Downs Fresh Eggs claimed that the company was “so focused” on keeping its hens inside to maintain their health during an outbreak of bird flu that it “inadvertently” broke the ACCC’s rules and “didn’t change [its] packaging from free range to barn or caged.”

According to CHOICE, there are many egg products in the supermarket that are misleading consumers. In the case of Darling Downs Fresh Eggs, the labelling led customers to believe that hens moved around freely. However, the company eventually admitted that the barn doors remained shut at all times, so that the birds were unable to move into the outdoor range.

CHOICE Head of Media, Tom Godfrey said that while “Darling Downs isn’t the only bad egg in the free range market” the ruling “highlights the need for a national standard so that consumers can have confidence in this market.”

Mr Godfrey says that customers who “pay a premium for free range [should] be confident that they’re getting what they pay for.”

CHOICE is working with the government to produce an enforceable national standard that will set out what ‘free range’ really means and that “meets consumers’ expectations of free range.”

Find out more about CHOICE’s free-range campaign.

Do you try to make an effort to buy free range?


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    16th Sep 2015
    Apart from the issue of 'Deceit' raised in this article a further confusion is the way egg-sizes are described. This ranges from 'Large', 'Extra Large', 'Jumbo', 'Extra Jumbo' to 'Huge', 'Massive', 'Monstrous', 'Ginormous', etc., etc. (I've used a bit of Poetic Licence towards the end!). I've yet to see a 'Small' or a 'Medium' egg on the shelves, so why not keep it simple and stop trying to 'con' the shopper..... stick to 'Small', 'Medium' and 'Large'!!!
    16th Sep 2015
    I buy free range eggs only, my feeling is that a free range chicken must be able to access natural growing herbage, e.g. grass, preferably be able to find and eat the odd bug or worm or such, so as to have a healthy diet with no deficiencies.
    Organic free range should have that plus be fed no grain, etc. that is not organically grown so no pesticides nor artificial fertilisers get into that egg.
    16th Sep 2015
    Sorry to disappoint, but free range eggs often have more contaminants than barn or cage, because there is no control on external food sources such as insects etc or even of the grass they might eat. Check it out...

    Free range is a treatment of the animal issue, definitely NOT a contaminant issue.
    Queensland Diva
    16th Sep 2015
    I always try to buy free range eggs, and this news is not good. How the hell are we supposed to know that we are getting what we pay for? Even more than that, it's a choice (for me) to support non-battery hens. Makes me so mad.

    16th Sep 2015
    Whoever came up with the idea of caged eggs and those who follow the practice should be stuffed into a cage themselves for life. No mercy for these torturing bastards. I don't believe for one minute Darling Downs' excuse, they knew damn well what they were doing. And barn laid eggs are another farce; the birds are stuffed into a barn so tightly they can barely move anyway. High time all the crooked egg producers are cracked. Throw the book at them! The egg industry is as crooked as the greyhound industry.
    16th Sep 2015
    Thankyou, Trood! Exploited and suffering birds, greyhounds, cows, pigs etc etc
    Love ya! x
    16th Sep 2015
    In is an interesting article which has made me realising how deceiving could be to believe packaging. I will stop buying eggs until this matter is totally and clearly resolved. Where are those high pay bodies that don’t do their job properly? I thank Choice for keeping an eye in these serious matters.
    16th Sep 2015
    Hi people, I know these folk, sure a cuppla bucks more, but really nice eggs, just don't overcook, you will miss that sweetness.
    16th Sep 2015
    I like the concept of free range, BUT the unfortunate truth is that there is simply not sufficient capacity in area to produce the eggs that we "need" without at least barn laid eggs.

    We have a choice:
    1) do without as many eggs as you all seem to want
    2) do without some other form of protein like beef or lamb or pork, and have seriously huge chicken runs
    3) reduce the population of humans so that demand decreases.

    I actually favour No 3 for other environmental sustainability reasons.
    16th Sep 2015
    Ho ho! Best of luck with (3)!
    17th Sep 2015
    Janus, where did you get that information? I seriously doubt that chickens take more space than any other protein source. Don't forget the land required to grow the grain they are fed on and the extra money the farmer has to earn to pay all the medical bills to keep his chooks halfway healthy.
    The department of Agriculture has for years suggested movable chicken houses, every day or two you move them to a fresh area as they have a natural tendency to stay within a certain distance from their nest. So you have a whole row of coops moving down to the end of the paddock and then coming back up the next paddock and meanwhile the grass, well fertilised by the chickens grows fast and lush so it is not that long before that paddock can have chickens again, or you can grow a crop in between instead. The chickens require very little grain in that situation, and are healthy and in so far as chickens can be happy, happy.
    16th Sep 2015
    Get your own chooks or ducks. I keep ducks and have yummy huge eggs for about 8 months of the year.
    16th Sep 2015
    To be fair, the quality of eggs I buy - those labelled free range - has improved enormously in recent years. They are big (gram size on packet) and fresh with well coloured yolks. HOWEVER on behalf of hens (!), I did approach a newer supermarket chain (no prizes) about their free-range label considering how many chickens their egg producer had to the acre (internet site told all). No comment was made by the supermarket. It was a 'ginormous figure! Perhaps Choice and the Gov will be discussin the issue of hens to the hectare as well.
    16th Sep 2015
    I want a Photo of the Chooks That Laid My Eggs on the Box, Trotting around in Wide Open Spaces !! :-) :-) No Selfies !! :-)
    17th Sep 2015
    Choice is a bright light in the extremely murky area that is consumer protection. You can subscribe to their online magazine for $7.98/month. Money well spent.
    17th Sep 2015
    Or get last Months down at Vinnies for 20 cents ! :-)
    17th Sep 2015
    Reply to Lookfar:
    Eating Earth_ Environmental Ethics and Dietary Choice - Lisa Kemmerer (2014) is agood read. Anything by Michael Pollan has some reasonable data
    Foer, Jonathan - Eating Animals
    etc etc All available on the nifty net.
    BTW, I eat anything. I know too much about "free range" to worry about it. Go for barn laid, save some money and get the same eggs.

    Have a think about beef and lamb, both of which are actually worse. At least the beasts mostly have a reasonable life.
    17th Sep 2015
    Hungary and Europe is suffering from Free Range Beasts at the moment !! :-(
    30th Jun 2020
    Cast iron for me.

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