Australia’s Federal Court has ordered an egg producer to pay a $250,000 fine after misleading its eggs as “free range” when in fact the hens were confined to barns.
Darling Downs Eggs admitted that from Dec 31, 2013 to Oct 6, 2014, that it supplied eggs marketed and labelled as “free range.”
In fact, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the laying hens had been “continuously confined to barns and had never had access to the outdoors. Images below.”
The Court ruling found that by labelling and promoting eggs as ‘free range’, Darling Downs Fresh Eggs represented to consumers that the eggs were produced by hens which were able to move about freely on an open range each day, and that most of the hens did in fact do so on most days.
In fact, as Darling Downs Fresh Eggs admitted, the doors to its barns were kept shut at all times so that none of the laying hens were able to access or use the outdoor range.
“The issue of free range is very important to many consumers and the Australian Consumer Law requires egg producers to make truthful, and not misleading, claims,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“It’s clearly misleading to claim your eggs are free range when the hens that laid the eggs didn’t roam freely outdoors.”
Sims said consumers are willing to pay a premium for free range eggs which they believe meet ethical or welfare standards.
“Businesses should not be benefitting financially from misleading claims about farming practices.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs supplies eggs from farms located in Queensland, approximately 40km south west of Toowoomba. It sold eggs labelled as ‘free range’ to consumers in Queensland, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs supplied eggs it represented were free range under its own ‘Mountain Range’ label and under the ‘Drakes Home Brand Free Range’ label.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs also supplied eggs it represented were free range to other producers who used them to supplement their own free range egg supply.