Consumer group Choice is accusing the Queensland government of threatening the consumer's ability to make informed purchasing decisions by "stealthily" altering its free range standard.
The Queensland government had previously set a legal maximum of 1,500 birds per hectare for eggs sold under the free range label, but has now changed this amount to 10,000 birds per hectare, a 667 percent increase.
Choice director of campaigns and communications, Matt Levey, said "Consumers have shown they are willing to pay a premium for ‘free range’ eggs and yet changes like this make the term meaningless. This latest move by the Queensland government has jeopardised consumers’ ability to make informed purchasing decisions."
The national Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, currently under review and intended as a guide for people responsible for the husbandry of domestic poultry, specifies a maximum of 1,500 birds per hectare.
Choice says many consumers are unaware of the Queensland government's new free range standard.
Choice said Queensland's stocking density amendments have "flown under the radar" with many consumers in the state unaware of the changes.
"The increasing number of consumers who wish to buy free-range eggs, and often pay a premium, should be able to do so with confidence," said Levey.
Last month the South Australian government defined free range eggs as coming from hens stocked at 1,500 birds per hectare, a move welcomed by Humane Choice.