Meatchickens: the ACCC ‘free to roam’ case

Source: Voiceless

Source: Voiceless

Federal Court finds Baiada and Barrter misled consumers on ‘free to roam’ meatchickens

In 2010 the Panel raised its concerns with the ACCC about the marketing of meatchicken products in reliance on the term ‘free to roam’. On 7 September 2011 the ACCC filed a proceeding in the Melbourne Federal Court’s Fast Track List alleging misleading or deceptive conduct in the promotion and supply of chicken products by major meatchicken producers in making claims that meatchickens raised in sheds were ‘free to roam’. The respondents to the ACCC proceeding were Turi Foods Pty Ltd (La Ionica), Baiada (owner of Steggles and, though not relevant to the proceeding, Lilydale Free Range Chickens), Barrter and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation. The ACCC alleged that the population density of meat chickens precluded such movement. The respondents flagged publicly that they would contest the proceeding. 

KFC removed ‘free to roam’ claims from its website within a week or so of the ACCC filing its proceeding: see the third attachment below. KFC was not a party to the proceeding.

The ABC ‘7.30’ television program covered the proceeding on 6 October 2011, with an interview of BAWP Chair Graeme McEwen: see the second attachment below for the video

On 23 January 2012 one of the respondents, Turi Foods Pty Ltd (La Ionica), admitted to misleading and deceptive conduct in describing birds raised in its sheds as ‘free to roam’. That day Justice Tracey of the Federal Court of Australia imposed a penalty of $100,000 and made orders for corrective advertising. Click here for the judgment http://www.judgments.fedcourt.gov.au/judgments/Judgments/fca/single/2012/2012fca0019  A sample press report is in the first attachment below.

The case was fixed for hearing on 13 March 2012 on an estimate of three days: see File Number VID974/2011 (ACCC v Turi Foods Pty Ltd & Ors) through the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

Tracey J of the Federal Court of Australia delivered judgment on Monday 8 July 2013, finding that Baiada, Barrter and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation had misled consumers by use of the term ‘free to roam’ in marketing, advertising and online publication. The Court noted in respect of a view of several sheds in Griffith that, upon entering the sheds there was a wall-to-wall sea of birds, and that very little floor surface could be seen. The Court found that there was a fairly constant density of 17.4 – 19.16 chickens per square metre between days 12 – 33; and that the animals were not free to roam prior to thinning out on day 42. Here is the link to the interview with our Chair, Graeme McEwen, on that evening’s ABC Radio current affairs program, “PM”: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2013/s3798546.htm

Click here for a copy of Tracey J reasons for judgment delivered on 8 July 2013  

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