The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Derodi Pty Ltd (Derodi) and Holland Farms Pty Ltd (Holland) alleging that their use of ‘free range’ in relation to their Ecoeggs, Field Fresh and Port Stephens egg brands was false and misleading.
Derodi and Holland have a business known as Free Range Egg Farms. The business supplies eggs under the label Ecoeggs nationally, and under the labels Port Stephens and Field Fresh Free Range Eggs in New South Wales.
The ACCC alleges that Derodi and Holland made false, misleading or deceptive representations on egg cartons, websites, a Facebook page and a Twitter account to the effect that the eggs supplied and labelled as “free range” were produced:
- by hens that were farmed in conditions so that the hens were able to move about freely on an open range on every ordinary day; and/or
- by hens, most of which moved about freely on an open range on most days.
The ACCC alleges that the hens used to produce the eggs for the Free Range Egg Farms business were not able to move about freely on an open range on an ordinary day because of the farming practices and conditions of the farms where the hens were kept.
The ACCC also alleges that most of the hens did not move about freely on an open range on most days.
“The ACCC considers that free range means more than animals just having potential access to the outdoors,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Consumers expect free range to mean animals genuinely can and do go outside on most days.”
The ACCC has asked the Court for declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, orders for the implementation of compliance programs, corrective notices and costs.
The proceedings are set down for a directions hearing in Sydney at 9.30am on 4 February 2015 before Justice Edmonds.
This case forms part of a wider investigation by the ACCC into free range claims made by egg producers.
The ACCC understands that there are a number of farming conditions that impact on whether hens are able to, and do, move freely on an open range each day. The conditions (and their impact) vary between producers and no single condition of itself is conclusive. The relevant conditions include:
- the internal stocking density of sheds
- the conditions of the internal areas the hens are housed in
- the number, size and location of any openings to an outdoor area
- the time of the day and how regularly the openings are opened
- the size and condition of the outdoor area, including any shaded areas, the presence of food, water and different vegetation and ground conditions
- the stocking density of any outdoor area, and
- whether the hens have been trained or conditioned to remain indoors.