Friday, May 31, 2024

ACCC concludes review of ‘free range’ and similar claims in the pork industry

The ACCC has concluded its investigation into alleged misleading conduct in the pork industry arising from claims such as ‘free range’, ‘bred free range’ and ‘bred outdoors’.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said it is important that the description on product packaging and in promotional material accurately reflects the living conditions of the animals raised for the production of meat.

“Marketing material must use words that consumers can understand, irrespective of whether the words have some special industry meaning,” he said.

The ACCC has accepted court-enforceable undertakings from P&M Quality Smallgoods (trading as Primo Smallgoods), George Weston Foods (trading as KR Castlemaine) and Pastoral Pork Company (trading as Otway Pork) as a result of these investigations.

In each of these cases, the ACCC considered that the reference to either ‘free range’ (used by Primo Smallgoods) or ‘bred free range’ (used by Otway Pork and KR Castlemaine) in the promotion and labelling of the pork products was likely to give consumers the overall impression that the pigs were farmed according to free-range methods, which include that, at a minimum, pigs are able to move about freely in an outdoor paddock on most ordinary days. In fact, this was not the case.

“In the undertakings, the producers have acknowledged that the conduct may have contravened the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Sims said. “In all cases, the producers have committed not to use the same descriptions, unless their farming practices are such that, at a minimum, the pigs are able to move about freely in an outdoor paddock on most ordinary days. They have also agreed to implement consumer law compliance programs and publish corrective notices.”

Separately, Australian Pork Ltd has agreed to change the title and logo of one of its pork production standards from ‘Outdoor bred’ to ‘Outdoor bred. Raised indoors on straw’. The ACCC considers that the inclusion of ’Raised indoors on straw’ makes it clearer to consumers that the pigs are born outdoors, but raised indoors from weaning until slaughter.

The ACCC understands some traders have used the ‘Outdoor bred’ and ‘bred free range’ statements to describe the living conditions of the sow, the mother pig, rather than the pigs that are raised and slaughtered for the pork product sold to consumers. The ACCC considers that consumers are unlikely to interpret these marketing statements to refer to the sow and therefore considers that use of these statements in this context is likely to be misleading.

“When claims such as ‘free range’ or ‘bred free range’ are misused, consumers may be misled into paying more for a product feature that doesn’t exist,” Mr Sims said.

“Competitors are also harmed as legitimate free-range producers unfairly lose their competitive advantage. Innovation suffers when consumers and business lose trust in the integrity of claims.”

Related Articles

Stay Connected


Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.