News 393 views update:Sep 8, 2009

Free-range doubts prompt Aus accreditation system

Australian free-range egg farmers have backed calls for an independent accreditation system saying it is urgently needed to protect the sector's integrity.

A recent analysis raised found that the total of free-range layer hens in the country were incapable of producing the total of free-range eggs sold each year, and as many as one in six eggs labelled free range on retail shelves were cage or barn-laid.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' Agricultural Commodities noted the number of chickens for egg production fell 3% in 2007-08. At the same time the Egg Corporation was reporting a 48.2% rise in sales of eggs labelled free range.

The NSW Greens pledged yesterday to introduce a bill to create a rigorous definition of free-range eggs and push for an egg labelling accreditation scheme.

The president of the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia, Ivy Inwood, said any producer could accredit themselves as free range, and the Egg Corporation's criteria for voluntary accreditation was enabling large operators to cash in on consumer demand, producing eggs under conditions most people would consider barn-laid.

The Egg Corporation said it would support any investigation of egg substitution.

Related website
• Australian egg corporation
• Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia

Natalie Berkhout

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