Consumer advocacy group Choice has welcomed today’s start of consultations on free-range egg labelling as the next step in ending the ‘free-range’ rip off.
Choice says that the consultation paper, released by the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP on behalf of the nation’s consumer affairs ministers, paints a clear picture of the current free-range farce and identifies options for unscrambling the problem.
“As the consultation paper shows, an increasing number of Australians are paying a premium for eggs labelled free-range without having any certainty they’re getting what they pay for,” said Matt Levey, Choice Director of Campaigns and Communications.
“In the absence of a national, enforceable standard for free-range, it is relatively easy to mislead consumers, and unfortunately there is a financial incentive for some producers to do so. The result is that consumers lose, as do producers of genuine free-range eggs,” Mr. Levey said.
The consultation follows a Choice investigation in June this year estimating a minimum of 213 million eggs sold in Australia last year under the 'free-range' label failed to meet consumers' expectations of the free-range claim.
“Based on consumers’ expectations, it’s estimated Australians could be paying between $21-$43 million per year for eggs that aren’t the real deal,” Mr. Levey said
“It’s a rip-off that distorts the market and undermines competition, and that’s why it’s so important that governments step in and agree a genuine free-range standard that reflects what consumers expect.
“Our research has shown that 84 per cent of egg buyers agree that a mandatory national standard is needed while only 2 per cent did not believe there should be a standard. Clearly it’s time to get cracking.”
With consultations open until 2 November, Choice is calling on consumers to support a genuine standard and contribute to a free-range information campaign.
"Support for the campaign has been overwhelming with consumers already donating almost $9,000 to send a message to government that they want real free-range," said Mr. Levey.