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Estimates: Economics Legislation Committee (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 2 Jun 2015

Senator WILLIAMS: Okay. This has been very controversial, this issue of free-range eggs. You said on 14 November last year:

Some have expressed concern there is no government standard that producers need to meet to be a free-range producer. We see no need for any standard …

You were reported in Melbourne on that Thursday. How do you define 'free-range eggs'?

Mr Sims : The cases we have been mainly engaged in are ones where the evidence we have is that the hens sometimes never and sometimes very rarely are outside the barn. The judgement that has now been brought down in the Pirovic case suggests that the birds both can go outside and on most days do go outside, such that, if you drive past the farms, you might see a fair number of birds outside, consistent with how the labels often look, where there are birds outside in fresh green grass. We have had cases where that is the label; in fact, the birds are very, very rarely, if at all, outside.

Senator WILLIAMS: So are you saying that free-range birds should be those out there in fresh green grass and roaming the countryside?

Mr Sims : We are trying to think, 'What would a consumer think if they buy a free-range egg?' We think it is appropriate that the birds should be able to leave the barn and on most days most of them would be outside for some period of the time. We are not trying to get terribly arithmetic about it.

Senator WILLIAMS: Do you realise that poultry are not ruminants, and actually fresh green grass can kill hens? That is a fact. I am bringing it to your attention. They are not a ruminant like a sheep or a cow.

Senator RHIANNON: It depends on how much you eat.

Senator WILLIAMS: The expert on grazing!

Senator Ryan: I think it is fair to say that we do not expect Mr Sims to answer veterinary questions.

Senator WILLIAMS: It is a fact. Talk to the poultry industry.

Senator RHIANNON: It depends how much a ruminant eats, too.

Senator WILLIAMS: Give us a break!



Senator RHIANNON: There has been a report that the state fair trading ministers will meet soon to discuss the free-range standards. Will the ACCC be attending the meeting?

Mr Sims : I will pass to my learned colleagues.

Mr Gregson : The ACCC does not have a formal role in relation to that meeting, not being part of the ministerial group. But we do attend to both assist and inform the minister and the Treasury.

Senator RHIANNON: You would expect to be there? You would normally be there?

Mr Gregson : Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: When will that meeting be held?

Mr Gregson : I do not have the exact, but it is coming up in early to mid-June—Wednesday week, actually.



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