‘Free range’ egg producer found guilty of deceiving public

Major Western Australian egg producer Snowdale Holdings has been found guilty of falsely claiming some of its eggs were free-range.

AAP reports that The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought the action against Snowdale in connection with its farms in Carabooda and the Swan Valley in December 2013.

The Federal Court of Australia heard that between 2011 and 2013, Snowdale produced eggs which were sold as popular free range brands, free range eggs by Ellah, Wanneroo Free Range Eggs, Mega Free Range Eggs, Swan Valley Egg Farm, Swan Valley Egg Co, and Carabooda Lovingly Hand Packed free range eggs.

On Wednesday, Justice Antony Siopis found that the ‘free range’ claims were misleading to the public.

“Each of the sheds at Carabooda had the capacity to house about 18,000 laying hens, whilst the shed at the Swan Valley farm had the capacity to house about 12,740 laying hens,” Judge Siopis said.

“I find that most hens did not exit [the sheds] and roam freely on an open range on most days.”

Snowdale said in a statement that it no longer sources eggs from the farms at Swan Valley and Carabooda.

“The Federal Court’s reasons do not have any bearing on Snowdale’s current free-range egg farm located in Gingin,” the company said.

“Snowdale’s free-range egg farm in Gingin uses world-best farming practices and has outdoor ranges stocked at no more than 1,500 chickens per hectare, more than six times than the forthcoming national free range standard.”

The company may appeal the decision. The Court said penalties will be announced at a later date.

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