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Free Range Labelling in the Spotlight

by 5m Editor
5 March 2009, at 11:49am

AUSTRALIA - The Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport has announced that it will be extending its inquiry to include the use of labels the 'organic' and 'free range' across all meat products.

The initial inquiry focused on issues relating to lamb marketing and the substitution of hogget and young sheep for lamb. As a result of submissions made to the inquiry, issues were raised in relation to marketing of other meat products.

"This is very encouraging news for the free range pork industry" says Lee McCosker, President of the Free Range Pork Farmers Association. "This is a matter that can no longer be dismissed and ignored by industry or government. Consumers have the right to make an informed choice when they purchase pork and if that choice is to buy a high welfare product then labels must truly reflect the production method claimed on the packaging."

At present there is no legal definition for free range and while most consumers would understand the term to mean free to range, the vast majority of pork labelled as free range currently available in butcher shops and supermarket shelves, is deceptively labelled. FRPFA has called on industry body, Australian Pork Limited, to produce industry guidelines for the different pork production methods. However, not only were requests denied but a descriptor for free range once displayed on the APL website, has now been removed.

It would seem that defining free range pork would not be in the commercial interests of the intensive pork industry. "The best outcome for consumers as well as free range producers, would be that the Standing Committee recommends that free range production be defined with a national standard" says Mr McCosker.

At present, the only way to ensure that a certified free range productis being purchased is to look for the Humane Choice logo, a quality assurance program and standard for free range pork producers, independently audited by Aus-Qual Pty Ltd.