Working out which products to buy when concerned about animal welfare can be a tricky task. Here’s how we’re tackling the problem in Australia with an app we developed, writes our guest author Katinka Day from CHOICE.
In Australia and in other countries around the world, many egg brands claim to be “free range” and with labels boasting luscious fields of happy chickens and marketing claims such as ‘organic’, ‘free-to-roam’, or ‘pasture-raised’ – it’s one of the more confusing choices to make in the supermarket.
But choosing eggs could soon get a bit easier for Australians. Just a few weeks ago, new free range egg labelling laws came into effect.
The new laws mean that eggs can only be classified as ‘free range’ if hens have “meaningful and regular access” to the outdoors where they can roam and forage; and egg producers run a maximum stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare or one hen per square metre.
This is good and bad news. The good news is that new rules require eggs labelled ‘free range’ to display the stocking density (the room hens have to room) on pack. This means shoppers can easily distinguish between eggs that come from hens with lots of room to move from those that don’t.
The bad news is that the definition of free range eggs still isn’t strict enough. CHOICE wanted ‘free range’ to meet common sense expectations – meaning that hens actually go outside and have room to move.
Even though stocking densities are now listed, the new standard only requires that hens have ‘access’ to the outdoors, rather than actually spending time outdoors. It also allows stocking densities of up to 10,000 hens per hectare. That’s far above the well-accepted 1,500 hens per hectare stocking density set by animal welfare organisations in Australia.
There’s an app for that
While these new laws are an improvement, they might not make buying free range eggs less confusing, especially for people who don’t know what an acceptable stocking density might be.
To make buying eggs easier, CHOICE developed a free augmented reality app called CluckAR designed to help shoppers avoid dodgy free range eggs in the supermarket. The app lets people scan egg cartons using their phones to determine whether they are really “free range” or not.
This allows people to easily distinguish between the good and the bad rather than having to interpret stocking density information themselves.
Is it good enough?
While using an augmented reality app is a bit of fun and helps people navigate the egg market, should we really have to reach to our phones and use apps every time we try and make an informed decision?
What are your thoughts? Do you have a hard time trying to find genuine free range eggs in the UK?