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  • 17 Jul 2014 12:21 AM | Anonymous

    July 15th click here for full story

  • 11 Dec 2013 1:56 AM | Anonymous
     

    HSI CELEBRATES MAJOR VICTORY AS ACCC SENDS EGG PRODUCERS TO COURT OVER MISLEADING 'FREE RANGE' EGG CLAIMS

    11th December, 2013 Sydney 

    After ten years of campaigning for truth in labelling, Humane Society International (HSI) is thrilled by yesterday’s announcement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that, as a result of one of our formal complaints, they have instigated proceedings against major egg producers in WA and NSW for misleading consumers in their use of the term ‘free range’.

    A number of other high profile brands and major producers are also currently under thorough investigation by the ACCC for similar misleading claims, and HSI is hopeful that the outcome of these complaints will help bring truth in labelling to the forefront of the free range industry, putting an end to the deceptive claims that seem to have been used freely amongst larger producers.  HSI first became aware of Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd, who trade as Swan Valley Egg Farm and Eggs by Ellah, and their produce in 2011 and submitted a formal complaint to the ACCC in early 2012.

    Swan Valley Egg Farm and Eggs by Ellah account for the majority of free range eggs in Western Australia which are sold in major supermarkets, and owner Mr Cocking has boasted in media reports that he is the largest free range egg producer in Western Australia.  HSI’s investigations revealed that Swan Valley may have been falsely labelling their eggs as free range, displaying the Australian Egg Corporation’s Egg Corp Assured logo on the packaging.  Details of the Snowdale Holdings operation were also supplied to the head offices of Australia’s two major supermarkets, yet both chose to continue stocking the contentious produce and have taken no action.

    Verna Simpson, HSI Director, says, “We are delighted that HSI’s complaints are being so thoroughly investigated by the ACCC and we hope that the misuse of the term ‘free range’ for both egg and pork products will soon be a thing of the past.  As we’ve said all along, if you label an egg ‘free range’ and it’s produced in a system stocking more than 1,500 hens per hectare, then you are clearly misleading your consumers.  We feel reassured that, thanks to the ACCC, we’re one step closer to securing national legislation for the term ‘free range’ which would help bring clarity to the whole free range egg industry.”

     True free range egg farmers who follow the guidelines of the Model Code of Practice stock no more than 1,500 hens per hectare – the birds are kept in conditions where they can move around freely on an open range every day, displaying their natural behaviours, as nature intended.  Verna Simpson continued, “HSI believes that a definition of ‘free range’ needs to be mandatory at a national level, with hen stocking densities clearly marked on product packaging.  True free range farmers who are running genuine free range establishments deserve to retain their market and consumers deserve the truth.”

     The ACCC’s announcement involves the first of a series of major complaints submitted by HSI and we are hoping for more good news in the coming months.  We are hopeful that the outcome of these investigations will help to finally resolve this issue, preventing any more consumer deception and protecting genuine free range egg and pork producers, and their animals.


  • 28 Oct 2013 1:45 AM | Anonymous

    Our quest for cheap meat and eggs has more reaching implications than most people could imagine but last week’s outbreak of avian influenza (or bird flu) has made many of us sit up and take notice.

    400,000 hens have been reportedly destroyed as a result of an outbreak of bird flu in Young NSW.  These same reports describe this farm as being free range.  This is incorrect.  The majority of hens that were culled were caged birds.

    Wambanumba Free Range, the subject of this issue, has council approval for only 80,000 hens.  The balance of the 400,000 hens culled came from a neighbouring caged egg facility only 800 metres away.

    Wambanumba Free Range consists of four massive sheds, silos, water tanks and outdoor runs for hens all enclosed in an area of just 1.6 hectares.  The stocking densities for hens on this property are enormous, approximately 80,000 birds per hectare.

    Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, has declared free range egg production as the cause of bird flu in this instance.  The hens on the Young property do not meet the general consensus for the term free range and he has angered many genuine free range producers for his lack of foresight in making such an uninformed statement.  Mr Joyce appears to be more concerned with using this incident as a tool to convince Woolworths to back down on their plans to phase out caged eggs from stores, a production system he seems to favour.

    There has not been a recorded incidence of bird flu on any genuine free range farm in Australia. 

    Factory farming has created a breeding ground for disease and commercial versions of free range are no different as they offer very limited access to a range area and hens are house at the same overcrowded stocking rates as intensive production systems indoors.  The very nature of these industrial sized operations requires that effluent ponds be constructed to catch run off to prevent contamination of the waterways. These ponds attract wildlife and in particular, the ducks that have been accused of spreading the bird flu virus.
     

    Supermarkets have applied so much pressure to producers to supply cheap ‘free range’ eggs for their private labels that farmers are prepared to compromise human health and our food security to meet their demands. Both Woolworths and Coles allow stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare for eggs produced for their home brand labels.

    Moving away from factory farms will minimize the opportunities for bird flu to spread and mutate by reducing the density of birds that this short lived virus needs to stay alive.

    Genuine pasture raised free range birds do not suffer the same disease burden of factory farmed animals and the farming systems employed mean that birds have low stocking rates reducing direct contact, well managed pastures with moveable hutches and a more natural existence that allows them to build immunity to diseases such as bird flu.

    An industry vet, and consultant to many large caged egg producers, has called for the culling of the ducks that he believes threatens the egg industry.  The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) states that waterfowl and wild birds could carry the flu virus.  Common sense must prevail.  Factory farming is not worth the destruction of the wildlife and ecosystems that surround intensive poultry farms or the threat it poses to our food security.

    We have written to Barnaby Joyce today to ask him to retract his statement that free range production encourages bird flu and that he research further the conditions under which the culled birds were kept and the true cause of the disease outbreak in Young.


     Media Contact:
    Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice: 0412 326 030
  • 28 Jul 2013 8:18 PM | Anonymous

     

    26/7/13

    PRESS RELEASE

     

    Skara Smallgoods, producer of award winning smallgoods for the past 5 years are now able to provide their product direct from the factory to you. A new purpose built boutique factory located in Totness in the Adelaide Hills has allowed Skara to provide an outlet for a new concept store attached to the factory. The opening of this shop will allow the public to purchase direct Free Range Smallgoods. Also introducing 100% certified Free range Pork and soon to be available certified Free Range Beef.


    Locally owned Skara Smallgoods is the first producers of Certified Free Range pork smallgoods and fresh meat products in South Australia. We are certified through Humane Choice and use only South Australian Pork Certified Free Range Farmers for the Skara Range of products.

    Being in the path of the Adelaide Hills food trail will give South Australian consumers a place where they can try our products and purchase direct and an exciting opportunity for Skara Smallgoods to tap into the South Australian Tourist industry.

     

    The store will be launched in 3 stages

     

    Stage 1   SHOP            retail for direct purchase to the public

    Stage 2   EAT               will be the opening of the eatery

    Stage 3   PLAY             will be the launch of hands on experience

     

    Our SHOP Launch will be on Saturday August 3rd  8.00 am to 1.00 pm



    40-42 Mount Barker Rd, Mount Barker, SA, 5251.

    Po Box 1235, Nairne, SA 5252

     Tel:  08-8391-4557, Fax:  08-8391-4215  Email:  sales@skarasmallgoods.com.au

     

  • 24 Jul 2013 9:33 PM | Anonymous

    No More Free Range Eggs in Queensland


    The Queensland government has quietly brought about changes to state regulations that will now ensure the end of true free range egg production in Queensland.

    The QLD government has bowed to the pressure of the corporate giants and sold out Queensland family farms, the egg buying consumer and condemned hens to a life of factory farming misery.

    Up until now Queensland was applauded for their regulations that stipulated only 1500 hens per hectare for free range farms.   Queensland egg producers actually had an advantage over the other states that allowed higher stocking densities for free range hens.  South Australia has just followed suit and developed a free range labelling system for producers stocking hens at 1500 or less per hectare.  Given the public outrage over the industrialization of free range egg production and the current position on this issue by the ACCC, we are appalled that the QLD government has made this move.


    The Queensland government has made a mockery of the Model Code of Practice and is effectively allowing the supermarket giants to act as a regulators for the industry.  There is no science and no social conscience behind the decision to destroy the Queensland free range egg industry.

    “In a perverse way the QLD government has made it just that much easier to make the right choice when you buy free range eggs.  When purchasing eggs at the supermarket,  just look at the where they are packed and boycott any free range eggs produced in Queensland.” Says Lee McCosker from Humane Choice.

    If you are a Queenslander buy your eggs from the independent supermarkets, butchers, green grocers or farmers markets if they carry an accreditation that ensures the eggs are truly free range.

    “Queenslanders have always felt that they didnt need to get behind the push for a nationally accepted standard of 1500 hens as being free range because they thought that’s what they already had.  It’s never too late to send a message to the QLD Government and voice your disapproval.” McCosker said.


    Send a 1500 hen postcard www.humanechoice.com.au/postcard


    Contact:   Lee McCosker 0412326030


    Other media: www.4bc.com.au


    Join the discussion on Facebook

  • 17 Jun 2013 6:14 PM | Anonymous

    South Australian Minister for Business Services and Consumers,John Rau, announced yesterday a new industry code to settle the debate over the definition of free range eggs.  The South Australian government has defined free range eggs as coming from hens stocked at 1,500 birds per hectare. 


    We congratulate Minister Rau for taking the initiative and attempting to put an end to the long running controversy over truth in labelling of free range eggs.


    Free range egg buyers have been at the mercy of large egg corporations seeking to cash in on demand for free range eggs aided by the supermarkets that seem to have taken on the role of industry regulator.


    This proposal gives the power back to the people by allowing them to make an informed buying decision and will encourage the supermarkets to make available a broader selection of eggs in their stores for that to happen.  It would be an interesting exercise to see just how many brands in the supermarket today would meet the criteria for the SA Free Range label.


    “I believe this industry code will actually bring clarity to the free range confusion and those producers that are meeting consumer expectation will stand out from the crowd.  Consumers will then be able to decide if they are willing to pay a little more for what they want, or accept eggs grown under a more intensive operation.  The choice will be made a lot clearer,” said Lee McCosker of Humane Choice*.


    There is still a confusing abundance of free range claims on eggs, many meaning very little, and they are eroding the integrity of the free range industry.  At least South Australian consumers will be able to weed out the less than honest ones.


    Contact: Lee McCosker - Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice
    Phone: 0412 326 030   Email:
    humanechoice@bigpond.com  
    HSI Website: 
    www.hsi.org.au 

  • 20 May 2013 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    One of Australia’s largest pork producers, Westpork, has been fined $225,000 for cruelty to pigs under the Animal Welfare Act 2002.  Never before has such a large fine been issued for farm animal cruelty in Australia.


    The piggery, located in Gin Gin Western Australia, was raided by West Australian Police in 2007 after an employee alerted the authorities to the appalling conditions at Westpork.  Charges were laid in 2009 for offenses identified by a series of inspections that occurred in January and February of that year.


    Inspections of the piggery revealed pigs suffering from ailments such as chronic photodermatitis, necrotizing arthritis and ulcerative photodermatitis which impacted on the ability of the animals to move, stand or bear weight to some degree.  These animals were destroyed only after their condition was discovered by inspectors.


    Westpork is the largest piggery in Western Australia supplying approximately 30 percent of the local market with pork, and at the time of the offenses, housed 55,000 pigs on their site. The piggery had a mortality rate of approximately 34 pigs per day at that point.


    30 charges, 10 charges each for Westpork, its General Manager Neil Ferguson and one other employee were laid.


    The matter was heard in the Perth Magistrates Court on the 9th April 2013, with Magistrate Tavener commenting that any fine imposed must discourage such behaviour and not simply be seen as a fee for cruelty. Westpork was fined a total of $250,000 with 10% discount afforded for their plea of guilty.


    At the time the charges were laid, Neil Ferguson also held positions on the Board of Australian Pork Limited (the peak industry body) and Pork Training WA.  Calls for Mr Ferguson to be stood down from these leadership positions were refused.


    Neil Ferguson is currently the Chairperson of the Western Australia Agriculture Produce Commission (Pork Committee) and Humane Society International (HSI) will be calling on the West Australian Government to relieve him of this position.


    The RSPCA, Australian Pork Limited and the West Australian Pork Producers Association all refused to comment on this matter while the case was before the courts.  We now call on them to offer assurances to the public that the practices at Westpork are unacceptable and that the management of this company will not hold positions of importance or leadership in the pork industry.

  • 15 May 2013 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    MEDIA RELEASE

     

    HSI Pushes Prime Minister to Legislate National ‘Free Range’ Standard 

                                                                                                                                 Australian consumers and free range egg farming families have had enough. The farcical free range egg debate has gone on too long and they want action now.

     

    On Thursday 40,000 individual postcards will be delivered to the door of our Prime Minister in protest to industry and state government’s indifference to the continued mislabelling of free range eggs.  Consumers have continually expressed dismay at the Egg Corporation’s exploitation of the trade as well as Coles and Woolworths Supermarkets attempts to control the industry for their own gain, and have demanded that stocking densities for free range hens be capped at 1,500 per hectare.

     

    “Never before have we witnessed consumer outrage on the scale that has been brought before the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), the media and motivated so many into action.  Coles, Woolworths and the egg industry peak body Australian Egg Corporation (AEC) have underrated their consumer.  They have attempted to take advantage of the consumer’s limited knowledge of egg production systems while toying with their concerns for hen welfare and reaping a premium for mislabelled eggs.” said Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice.

     

    What makes these postcards so important is that they have been distributed in certified free range egg cartons to the very consumers who will be duped, if our government does not step in now, and end the farce that is for sale on most supermarket shelves today.

     

    The overwhelming response verifies that free range egg buyers believe that the intensification of free range and systems that restrict or discourage outdoor access, do not meet their expectations of free range.

     

    “We will not have greedy supermarkets dictate conditions that free range hens will be farmed under, and standards that are not underpinned by science or acknowledgement of the consumers understanding of the term free range,”McCosker said.  “There is much more at stake here than a simple descriptor on a carton.  The term free range has implications for hen welfare, the sustainability of our Australian family farms, as well as what it means to the consumers who pay a premium for those eggs.”

     

    Humane Society International (HSI) began their campaign for truth in labelling of free range eggs when they first alerted the ACCC to concerns about the proposed AEC Egg Standard Australia in March 2011, and lodged a complaint requesting that the Certification Trademark before them be denied.  Eighteen months of investigations and interviews resulted in the ACCC issuing its scathing initial assessment that resulted in a damning report from the ACCC and a statement that the Commission believes the rules of the proposed standard may mislead or deceive consumers about the nature of eggs described as free range.

     

    We are urging the Federal Government to take control of this situation. They need to legislate a national standard for free range that will protect the consumer and the free range farmer.  AEC has demonstrated that it is out of touch with both the consumers and the true free range producers and cannot be trusted.  Every move they have made in this debate has been to increase the profits of the large intensive egg producers, the very agricultural industrialists who sit on the Board of AEC, and to bow to the pressure from the big two supermarkets.

     

    It is time for the Federal Government to take the reins.  Allowing industry to self-regulate has been an absolute disaster.  We will be garnering support for such a national standard in the lead-up to the Federal election, and we hope that the postcards we present the Prime Minister on Thursday will help her understand the high level of discontent.

     

    “There is a very simple solution.  Call these intensively produced eggs something else and leave the term free range alone” added McCosker.

     

    Media Contacts:

    Lee McCosker – Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice  Phone: 0412 326 030   Email: humanechoice@bigpond.com

    Verna Simpson – HSI Director – 0416 189 482 or (02) 9973 1728    HSI Website:  www.hsi.org.au

  • 11 Apr 2013 5:58 AM | Anonymous

    One of Australia’s largest pork producers, Westpork, has been fined $225,000 for cruelty to pigs under the Animal Welfare Act 2002.  Never before has such a large fine been issued for farm animal cruelty in Australia.


    The piggery, located in Gin Gin Western Australia, was initially charged with cruelty in 2009 after an employee alerted the authorities to the appalling conditions at Westpork.  The West Australian Police raided the property in 2007.


    Pigs at Westpork were reported to be wallowing in their own faeces so deep that some drowned after they had been left to die of illness, their carcasses consumed by other pigs.


    Westpork is the largest piggery in Western Australia supplying approximately 30 percent of the local market with pork, and housing 40,000 pigs on their site at any one time.


    The initial charges against Westpork were dropped due to a technicality but fresh charges were again laid in 2011 resulting in 30 charges, 10 charges each for Westpork, its General Manager Neil Ferguson and one other employee. These charges related to three separate incidences between January and April 2009.


    At the time the new charges were laid, Neil Ferguson also held positions on the Board of Australian Pork Limited (the peak industry body) and Pork Training WA.  Calls for Mr Ferguson to be stood down from these leadership positions were refused.


    Neil Ferguson is currently the Chairperson of the Western Australia Agriculture Produce Commission (Pork Committee) and Humane Society International (HSI) will be calling on the West Australian Government to relieve him of this position.


    The RSPCA, Australian Pork Limited and the West Australian Pork Producers Association all refused to comment on this matter while the case was before the courts.  We now call on them to offer assurances to the public that the practices at Westpork are unacceptable and that the management of this company will not hold positions of importance or leadership in the pork industry.

  • 22 Jan 2013 11:43 PM | Anonymous

    Supermarkets called to correct free range egg deception!

    The race to intensify free range egg production has taken a few unpredicted twists and turns.  While the Australian Egg Corporation has withdrawn its application before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that would have seen stocking rates for layer hens explode to 20,000 per hectare, it appears that the baton has been handed to the supermarkets who are making a desperate charge to claim the free range label and push their interpretation of the term over the line.

    While Coles is hoping consumers will take a giant leap of faith and believe that they have suddenly switched from caged to free range production for their Coles branded eggs, Woolworths has simply countered with the dismissive comment that they do not use intensive farming practices. 

    The free range label is so coveted that supermarkets are prepared not to heed the warnings delivered by the ACCC in their initial assessment of the Egg Corporation's bid to take control of the free range brand and feather the nests of only the large corporate producers.

    Aviary systems that provide high rise accommodation for hens and effectively double or triple the indoor stocking rates for the birds are a relatively new weapon in the battle to win the right to label intensive eggs as free range.  Outdoor stocking rates of 10,000 hens per hectare and sheds containing anything up to 40,000 hens will never be able to provide appropriate access to the outdoors for the birds or an environment that in any way meets the consumer’s expectation of free range.

    Hens that are trained from day one to navigate the labyrinth of levels in one of these aviaries, that are only supplied feed and water indoors and live in an environment of controlled dim lighting, rarely access the outdoors, even if they manage to find the very limited pop-hole access provided for them, and if they escape to the outside they will only find a barren and uninviting yard in which to range.

    “While Humane Society International (HSI) applauds any move that will free hens from cages we cannot condone the mislabelling of eggs or the misrepresentations being made to consumers.  Developing a new category or descriptor for these cage free units that will be embraced by egg buyers and endorsed by the entire egg industry would be a far more sustainable option.  This would avoid further eroding the integrity of the free range industry and consumer faith in egg labels,” says Lee McCosker, Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice.  “HSI is suggesting BARN YARD as a more appropriate term.”

    HSI has suggested that the Woolworths' comments about not employing intensive farming practices are naive and misleading.  HSI has called on Woolworths to retract this statement made to concerned customers that have questioned the integrity of their claims made on Select branded free range eggs.

    Contact: Lee McCosker - Chief Operating Officer for Humane Choice
    Phone: 0412 326 030   Email: humanechoice@bigpond.com   
    Website:  www.humanechoice.com.au  
    HSI Website:  www.hsi.org.au

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