Media Release: South Melbourne Market Supports Free Range Labelling Standard
The South Melbourne Market is celebrating the news that Federal, State and Territory ministers have agreed to develop a national standard for the labelling of free-range eggs.
This is a subject very close to the Market’s heart after the launch of their ‘We Care about the Chicken & The Egg campaign’ late last year. The policy launched by the Market, owned and managed by the City of Port Phillip, banned the sale and use in restaurants of caged eggs, and ensured that all stalls selling eggs clearly labelled the bird stocking densities on their eggs.
Consumer advocate group Choice have also been lobbying that “free-range eggs cost more, but they aren’t all equal. Some come from hens with plenty of space to roam. Some may be laid by birds in cramped conditions.”
Currently, eggs labelled as free range could be sourced from farms with 850 hens per hectare, up to over 10,000 hens per hectare and the consumer may be paying similar prices.
Port Phillip Mayor Amanda Stevens said “As was reflected in the new Market policy launched last year, it’s important to the City of Port Phillip that the South Melbourne Market continue to be committed to animal welfare principles.
“The Market’s discerning shoppers want to make informed purchasing decisions and be offered clear and consistent labelling. If there are enforceable standards in place for free range egg labelling, that’s a great step forward, and we hope that the limits set meet the customer’s expectations of free range.”
Babe’s Eggs at the South Melbourne Market only sells free range eggs here the bird densities are no higher than 1,500 birds per hectare. Their largest supplier, WillowZen from Gippsland, boast 850 hens per hectare. Now this is free range.
For interviews or further media enquiries, please contact:
Sophie McCarthy | South Melbourne Market | (03) 9209 6554 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Press Release: South Melbourne Market Announces Caged Egg Ban
29 October 2014
In a bold move supporting humane food production, the South Melbourne Market, together with their traders, will ban the sale of all caged eggs by introducing the “We Care about the Chicken and the Egg” campaign.
From December 1st 2014, South Melbourne Market traders will not sell eggs that have been sourced from hens housed in cages (this includes any eggs used in restaurants and cafés).
Additionally, traders will be required to clearly label ‘bird densities’ as well as identify products as barn-laid, free-range or organic. Customers will therefore be informed to make their purchase decision based on price; category including barn-laid, free-range and organic; and hen stocking densities. While the concept of ‘bird density’ may yet be unknown to some shoppers, it has been identified by the Market as one of the ways to convey to customers the potential quality of free-range systems.
In the absence of national labelling standards for cage free eggs, there exists a suite of criteria and certification schemes which aim to promote products that support the humane treatment of animals. The maximum number of birds allowed in outdoor spaces can therefore differ greatly between the various cage-free egg guidelines.
The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry is a voluntary national guide to the poultry industry, and designates a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare for free-range layer hens. The Free Range Farmer’s Association (Victoria) stipulates 750 birds per hectare, while the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme states between 1,500 and 2,500 birds per hectare for fixed and rotational farming methods respectively. The maximum limit adopted by some large supermarkets for their own brand of ‘free-range’ eggs is 10,000 birds per hectare.
Hope Bertram, Marketing Manager of Humane Food at RSPCA Australia has liaised with the Market regarding their campaign. “RSPCA Australia applauds South Melbourne Market on its latest commitment to animal welfare. Consumers at the markets’ cafes and restaurants can now be confident the meals they order contain cage-free eggs. Alongside this, grocery shoppers will be happy to see only cartons of cage-free eggs on shop shelves. This decision by the markets’ management and Port Phillip Council shows great leadership and acknowledges the growing community demand to get Australian hens out of cages once and for all”, says Ms Bertram.
Market Manager, Ross Williamson, said “It’s important to us at South Melbourne Market to be committed to animal welfare principles. Our discerning shoppers want to make informed purchasing decisions and be offered clear and consistent labelling.
We are proud to be leading the way in what, we believe, should be the ethical standard for all egg sellers nationwide”.
The campaign follows other key labelling projects at the Market including the review of ‘country of origin’ labelling, and the auditing of organic and free-range claims on other produce.
Get the conversation started using hashtag #SMMeggs.
Many chefs and personalities have expressed support for this historic decision:
“The issue of caged eggs is one which I am very passionate about and the education of consumers is crucial for taking the next step forward. I’m so happy to see that the South Melbourne Market are leading the way in the fight against caged eggs. I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to both the Market management and the traders who are making this initiative possible. Hopefully this will spark the attention of other retailers nationwide.” – Dr Katrina Warren
“Congratulations to the South Melbourne Market for taking this big leap and for shining a light on such an important issue. I only ever use free-range eggs myself – both at home and in my restaurants. I hope that this is only the beginning and that others might follow their lead.” – Adam D’Sylva
“What a wonderful initiative by South Melbourne Market – I applaud them for their stance on cage free eggs and for their commitment to the decision. Well done to all of the traders and management involved.” – Andrew McConnell
“The issue of caged eggs has been growing in significance in the food industry and is one that is particularly important to me. A huge congratulations to the decision-makers and traders at the South Melbourne Market on this new initiative. They have much to be proud of.” – Nicky Reimer
Effective 1 December 2014, South Melbourne Market will:
1. Ban the sale and use (in restaurants and cafés) of eggs where hens are housed in cages.
2. Require all traders selling eggs to clearly label the ‘bird densities’ for their egg range.
The maximum number of birds allowed in outdoor spaces can differ enormously under the various free range standards. Traders will need to find out bird densities from their suppliers and include this information on clear labelling of eggs (below). Consumers will find these labels on all eggs sold at the Market.
This move supports the humane treatment of layer hens, as well as the growing demand for ethical food production and allows shoppers to make more informed purchasing decisions when shopping at the Market.
The South Melbourne Market has made the decision to ban caged eggs with the full support of its traders and restaurants.
The decision is an ethical one which we believe reflects the desires of our customers and business partners. We reserve the right to decide the types of stores and products we make available.
Banning caged eggs is in-line with the Market’s strategic direction of being a community market which has priorities other than just its commercial interests.
This decision has involved lengthy investigation internally, approval from the Market’s S86 Committee, and liaison externally with the RSPCA.
Earlier this year the ACT Government passed legislation banning battery cages. Since then other retailers have made similar bans, including Woolworths in the ACT and an IGA supermarket in Warrandyte, with Coles no longer selling company-branded caged eggs.
In the absence of national labelling standards for cage-free eggs, there exists a suite of criteria and certification schemes which aim to promote products that support the humane treatment of animals. The maximum number of birds allowed in outdoor spaces can therefore differ greatly between the various cage-free egg guidelines. For example:
• The Free Range Farmer’s Association (Victoria) stipulates 750 birds per hectare;
• The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme states between 1,500 and 2,500 birds per hectare for fixed and rotational farming methods respectively;
• The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry is a voluntary national guide to the poultry industry, and designates a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare for free-range layer hens;
• The maximum limit adopted by some large supermarkets for their own brand of ‘free-range’ eggs is 10,000 birds per hectare.
The South Melbourne Market wants their customers to be able to decide what eggs to buy based on price; category including barn laid, free range and organic; and bird density. While the concept of bird density is probably still foreign to most shoppers, it has been identified by the Market as the easiest way to convey free range hen quality in light of the lack of national or even state standards.
Were traders consulted in this decision? What about those traders / small businesses, like many others around Australia, who have always sold caged-eggs or made dishes from caged-eggs? Won't this make things hard for them?
Yes traders have been thoroughly consulted and they support this ethical decision. As an example, one stall that specialises in eggs has made the bold commitment to changing suppliers and products in order to be able to meet the requirements. We couldn’t implement this ban without the full support of our traders.
People who shop in the South Melbourne Market precinct still have the option of buying caged eggs from neighbouring supermarkets.
The ban of caged eggs in cafes and restaurants is, for now, limited to fresh eggs used on site to make meals. Eggs can be found in many products such as pasta, pastry and mayonnaise. If a restaurant makes their own mayonnaise or pasta then non-caged eggs must be used. If a restaurant uses already made products, brought in from outside, then the policy does not extend to these products yet.
The Market has developed a protocol to ensure the policy is enforced. As part of this protocol, regular audits of stalls, cafes and restaurants will be conducted and all stallholders will need to provide written proof their egg suppliers meet the required chicken farming densities.
The Market controls the licence that allows a stallholder to trade. Licences are reviewed and renewed at our discretion based on performance criteria which include abiding by licence obligations (e.g. proper labelling and adhering to and meeting Market policies). A stallholder who breaches their licence by selling caged eggs will be issued a breach notice. Issuing a breach notice can affect a stallholder’s chance of renewing their licence and a second breach can result in the immediate termination of their licence.
We are passionate about this but need to start slowly so we ensure we are enforcing protocol effectively. Sometimes you can get paralysed with the magnitude or complexity of what you are embarking on but we believe every little bit counts!
This is a first step and aligns strongly with our strategic direction. We hope that stallholders will see the benefit of making, and embracing, these changes and go on their own journey of making purchasing decisions that are more ethical or humane.
We are proud to be leading the way with eggs and, whilst the focus is on eggs at the moment, we will continue to look to other issues of humane food production with a view to announcing new initiatives in the very near future.