State and territory ministers are today to decide whether to agree to a New South Wales proposal to develop a national code for free-range eggs.
The proposal follows an investigation last year by New South Wales Fair Trading, which found the rules for classifying eggs are ambiguous and some of the most expensive eggs have the highest stocking densities for chickens on farms, ABC News reports.
ACT and Queensland are the only states currently with free-range egg standards, but their standards are vastly different.
In ACT, a stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare can be called free-range, but Queensland raised its stocking density from 1,500, to 10,000 last year.
Coles has adopted a maximum stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare for its own brand free-range eggs.
The investigation by NSW Fair Trading found that farms are commonly stocked at 20,000 chickens per hectare when they carry the free-range label, despite the CSIRO’s current model code of practise recommending 1,500 birds per hectare.
A voluntary industry code allows stocking densities of up to 20,000 birds per hectare with guidelines on stock rotation, grass cover and access to shade.