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Monday 28 March 2016

Why supermarkets and politicians (and some chefs) are happy to lie to you

What do you expect if you see "free-range chicken" or "free-range eggs" for sale, or listed on a menu.

I'd say that you would be expecting to eat eggs from a chicken that grew up with the opportunity to go outside and had enough space to interact with other chooks. A chicken that was healthy and not pumped up on steroids. 

Unfortunately, some chicken farmers see things differently, as do supermarket chains, fast-food outlets and, unfortunately, Australian politicians.

Nirvana for chickens
I always buy free-range chickens even though I have no illusions about them having roamed free in idyllic paddocks. I have my own free-range eggs. But the waters of what "free-range" actually means are increasingly - and deliberately - being muddied. 

The good people at consumer advocate group CHOICE this week sent out a release that warns the free-range egg standard could be hijacked and deliberately misleading labels allowed when ministers meet this coming Thursday.
The consumer group says large producers are lobbying for a standard so broad that eggs could be labelled free-range even if they were laid by chickens that never actually go outside.
“You only need to look at egg cartons in any major supermarket and see how these products are marketed to consumers - images of chickens outside. That’s what consumers expect, and that’s what they should get,” says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey.
“But now big producers have seen the writing on the wall and are trying to remove any requirement that free-range eggs are produced by chickens that actually go outside.
“This is an appalling state of affairs and points to an industry that needs to be seriously cleaned up, not protected through a dodgy standard that entrenches plainly misleading practices."

Since 2011, that toothless and largely useless organisation the ACCC has taken just six separate actions against producers for misleading free-range egg claims.
CHOICE recommends that a national information standard for free-range eggs should reflect consumers’ reasonable expectations that: the majority of chickens actually go outside regularly; birds have room to move comfortably when outdoors; birds have room to move comfortably inside the barn, and farmers undertake animal welfare practices.

It sounds only fair and reasonable. Why not let your politicians, supermarkets and chefs know what you think. 


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