Chicken supplier fined over label claims

REBECCA TRIGGERThe West Australian
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One of the country's biggest chicken meat suppliers has been fined $400,000 over misleading labelling claims.

The Federal Court awarded the penalties last week after finding Baiada Poultry and Bartter Enterprises, who supply the Steggles brand, had engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct when it claimed chickens were "free to roam in large barns".

Baiada has hatcheries and breeder farms south of Perth and a processing facility in Osborne Park.

The case was brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The court found the poultry were kept at stocking densities where they were unable to roam in an uninhibited manner up till 42 days old. The chickens are generally slaughtered when they are 56 days old.

Baiada has hatcheries and breeder farms south of Perth and a processing facility in Osborne Park.

The Australian Chicken Meat Federation was also ordered to pay $20,000 in penalties after the court found statements on its website and publications claimed meat chickens in Australia were free to roam in large barns.

"Credence claims, which represent that a product possesses a premium attribute, are a priority area for the ACCC; particularly those in the food and beverage industry with the potential to influence consumers and disadvantage competitors," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

"Consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions that value the types of claims that directly affect the integrity of the product, such as where or how something was made, grown or produced.

"Consumers must be able to trust that products match descriptions so they can make informed purchasing decisions. Misleading credence claims can also undermine the level playing field and disadvantage other suppliers,"

Australian Chicken Meat Federation Executive Director Andreas Dubs expressed disappointment the words 'free to roam' were found to be misleading.

"Its intention was to inform consumers that meat chickens are not and have never been kept in cages," she said in a statement.

"The ACMF will review the Court's decision and take any steps necessary to ensure it complies with all requirements."

Baiada was contacted for comment.

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