The Australian Greens have called on the Minister for Agriculture to fast-track the long overdue review of the Poultry National Model Code of Practice, following a Federal Court decision that Steggles producer Baiada was guilty of misleading claims that its chickens were 'free to roam' despite cramped living conditions.
"Successive Agriculture Ministers have dragged their feet for seven years on the review of the Poultry Model Code of Practice", said Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon.
"This Federal Court decision shows why shoppers cannot trust whether the meat they buy comes from chickens living in miserable conditions or chickens kept as humanely as possible.
"Terms like 'free to roam' give the impression that chickens spend their time happily scratching outdoors in the sunshine but the Federal Court found that Baiadi's chickens were squashed in sheds and unable to move more than a metre at best.
"The Chicken Meat Federation has glossed over the ruling claiming nothing needs to change and the industry will continue business as usual.
"While the industry has stopped using the term 'free to roam', consumers can feel little confidence they can make an informed decision to buy chicken meat advertised as 'cage free' or 'raised in barns'.
"Each year over 300 million broiler chickens are farmed and killed for their meat. Their accelerated growth rate makes their bodies so unnaturally heavy that reaching food and water is difficult and many suffer heart failure.
"It is time the Agriculture Minister works with state governments to implement mandatory, nationally consistent truth-in-labelling laws to restore consumer confidence and protect animal welfare", said Senator Rhiannon.
The welfare of poultry in Australia is regulated under the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry, which forms the basis for state laws.