In a major coup for consumers, CHOICE’s Super Complaint on shonky egg claims should see the law finally laid down on what “free range” really means.

Fed up with scrambled standards that are seeing many consumers around Australia pay a premium for dodgy free-range eggs, CHOICE lodged a ‘super-complaint’ about misleading free-range claims with NSW Fair Trading in August 2013.

Today, NSW Fair Trading released its response, pushing for a national standard that would for the first time provide an enforceable definition and bring an end to the ‘free-range’ farce.

“We have repeatedly called for a nationally consistent and enforceable standard for free-range eggs to stop consumers being misled by shonky claims,” says CHOICE Campaigns Manager Angela Cartwright.

“We presented evidence to NSW Fair Trading that dodgy free-range egg claims are leading to major rip-offs, with these products costing up to twice as much as cage eggs despite the wide variation in how they are produced.”

“Today’s push for an enforceable, national standard under the Australian Consumer Law is great news for consumers and CHOICE looks forward to seeing the NSW Government champion this work.”

CHOICE’s super complaint pointed out that while close to 40% of the egg market is free-range, the egg industry had admitted that many products labelled ‘free-range’ do not meet the existing voluntary national standard which sets a maximum stocking density of 1,500 hens per hectare on the outdoor range.

The super complaint provided evidence that there is no relationship between standards and price, with a product that met the Model Code definition selling for less than a product with a declared stocking density 13 times higher than the Model Code limit.

“Only a month ago, we bestowed the dishonour of a CHOICE Shonky Award on ecoeggs, with its ‘free-range’-labelled eggs costing more than other products with considerably lower stocking rates,” Ms Cartwright says.

“In the absence of an enforceable national standard, egg producers have hatched a range of approaches under the ‘free-range’ label.

“Consumers are confronted with cartons awash with images of solitary chooks standing in sunlit pastures, but there’s no guarantee you’re getting what you pay for.

”Even the national egg industry group admits there is huge variation in the stocking densities its own members use for supposedly free-range eggs.

“This crackdown on dodgy free-range claims is long overdue and we welcome NSW Fair Trading’s commitment to protecting the growing numbers of Australians who pay a premium for these products.”

For more information on CHOICE’s free-range campaign visit choice.com.au