'Free Range' Egg Producer Misled Australian Consumers

AUSTRALIA - The Australian Federal Court has found that egg company Snowdale Holdings gave a misleading impression that its eggs were 'free range' in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law, in proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
calendar icon 18 May 2016
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Snowdale supplied eggs labelled as 'free range' to suppliers in Western Australia under the brands Eggs by Ellah, Swan Valley Free Range and Wanneroo Free Range. Snowdale also promoted its eggs as 'free range' on the Eggs by Ellah website from May 2013.

The Court found that Snowdale represented that the eggs were laid by hens which were able to, and did, go outdoors and roam freely on an open range on most days.

However, between April 2011 and December 2013, the Court found that most of the hens from the Snowdale sheds did not move around on an open range because the farming conditions significantly inhibited them from doing so.

These conditions included the number of pop holes, the number of birds per metre of pop hole, flock size inside the shed and shed size.

In his judgment, Justice Siopis noted: “There is no suggestion in the images and get up used on any of the Snowdale egg carton labels that the laying hens are, in fact, housed in steel industrial style sheds about 100m long and that the hens in those sheds would have to compete with another 12,000 or 17,000 other hens, as the case may be, before the hens could even exit the shed to enter an open range."

“Consumers expect that when they purchase eggs promoted as ‘free range’ they are getting eggs from hens that actually go outside,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

A date for a hearing on relief is yet to be determined. The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, implementation of a compliance program, corrective notices and costs.

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