‘Free range’ pork threatens industry

18-09-2007 | |

Controversy over how a free range pig is defined has started a row and threatens the potentially lucrative free range pork industry. Farmers are undergoing turmoil, after the competition regulator ruled that there was hardly any difference between pigs that spent their lives outdoors and those that were born free but reared in intensive farmed conditions.

It was reported that consumers were not able to distinguish between the production methods of “free range” and “bred free range”, therefore both were equally legitimate, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ruled in its dismissal of a complaint.

Bred free range pigs are born outdoors and spend the first few weeks of their lives free to roam in paddocks. When around three weeks old they are weaned and transferred to huts with other pigs until they are slaughtered at about five months. Purists say pigs should spend their entire lives roaming in paddocks to qualify for the free range tag.

Two pig producers were accused by The Free Range Pork Farmers Association of misleading and deceptive conduct for claiming to be free range. The competition regulator acknowledged the different methods but said shoppers would be unable to make the distinction.

One of the accused producers, Stephen Roberts of Bundawarrah Free Range Pork said that until a strict definition was reached, he was free to call his product free range.