Friday, 27 November 2009

Free range or organic - that is the question....

I received the Press Release below on Wednesday, and was very interested to read this particular one because it has been a source of much discussion between me and others regarding clarification of exactly what consititutes 'organic' and 'free range'......

I have very definite opinions on what is or isn't and get extremely peeved when I find out something I have gone out of my way to buy because they advertise they are 'free range' or 'organic' actually isn't.

Seems like it comes down to what your own personal definition is, but if the below is to be believed (and I have no reason to suspect it isn't!) then someone like me has somewhere to take this matter further in the future.

"Free-range and Organic Advertising Claims

The Minister for Corrections and Consumer Protection, Lisa Singh, today issued a warning to businesses regarding advertising for ‘free-range’ or ‘organic’ products that may be false or misleading.

“Whilst there is currently no legal standard or definition of the term free-range, there is a common understanding and expectation from consumers about what that means,” Ms Singh said.

“People have an understanding of what they believe free-range means.

‘‘Consumers purchase products such as free-range eggs or free-range pork on the assumption that the birds or animals have been treated in a certain manner, such as not being held in cages and having access to pasture and shelter,” Ms Singh said.

“When it comes to ‘organic’ food, most purchasers of this type of product would understand that the food is produced without the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

“Consumers choose to buy these types of products over others, often paying a premium price and are entitled to receive what they paid for.

‘‘Businesses making claims about products being ‘free-range’ or ‘organic’ may be asked to provide evidence to support their claims.

“If they are unable to substantiate their claims, prosecution action may follow.”

Ms Singh said that the penalties for false or misleading representations under the Fair Trading Act are up to $24,000 for an individual and $120,000 for a corporation.

Anyone with information regarding possible misleading advertising claims regarding these type of products are urged to contact Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading on 1300 65 44 99.
Further information:
Tasmanian Government Communications Unit Phone: (03) 6233 6573"
Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

I could name a few high profile ones but the system is so gutless its not worth the trouble by the way you know who you are.

Bri said...

What a useless comment! I'm sure 'they' must be shaking in their boots... or they might be if you weren't so ho-hum about following through and persisting on an important issue.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that you feel my comment is useless Bri but as a small freerange producer that has fought many of these battles over the past few years at great cost, the issue starts with government and legislation on many levels that enable such products to be branded under such empty lables its about time the government took the time in making labling laws tighter and clearer for the consumer and making proving provenance, animal welfare conditions/farming practices mandatory prior to being able to brand a product as such rather then this old dob in an offender routine. Further to this the governing bodies that have set themselves up in order rubber stamp these terms of labling at a cost of course to the producer and consumer providing consistant clarity.
Organics/Freerange are now marketing tools that come at a crazy cost with such cloudy base guidelines.
Sometimes I wonder how some of them sleep at night, but thats the problem.
I hope that gives you a little more content to digest.

ut si said...

Our pork on tonights menu was paddock raised and free to roam...from Cuckoo Valley!

Rita said...

I find that a tantalising comment Anon 5.13. You obviously know a lot more than what you've expressed here, and, as you said, you are a small free range producer. I am interested in finding out more detail about what you said. What legislation is the government loose on with this?

I'm not trying to be a smartarse, I genuinely want to know, and not from reading guidelines about how the system is meant to work, but from someone on the ground who's actually trying to do it in reality.

Rita said...

Where's Cuckoo Valley? Is it in Tas?

ut si said...

Yep, North East. Beautiful pig.

Anonymous said...

utsi, is it from they guys from scottsdale pork?
Rita you know who i am just think about it a little (anon 5.13) just tring to keep a low profile and not upset to many people.

steve said...

Good & timely post Rita.
I think its a step in the right direction to start to make producers/purveyors/restaurants etc qualify exactly what is is they are selling/making.
Like the notion of 'Greenwashing', the description of organic & free range produce has lost a lot of its currency mainly due to it's excessive & sometimes confusing use. For instance if you read 'Bred free range' on a label, the bit 'free range ' is the bit that sticks in your head. As we know this does not mean that the animal was in fact free range but its parents were!

One curious aspect I see is that there are a lot of farmers & producers out there who do farm to organic & sometimes even biodynamic principles but resent that they must pay to be certified. Certification means that they can officially use the term 'organic' or 'bio dynamic' if they follow an even stricter set of regimens.

To be clear, all bio dynamic produce is already organic.

My understanding is that you can call your produce organic (if indeed you do actually follow the organic way) but you cannot say you are 'certified'.

On the other hand many certified producers resent that people who are not certified & thus have not met strict criteria, continue to use organic in their marketing.

I have grown vegies according to organic principles but dont have certification, does this make my vege any less virtuous?

Rita said...

Sorry Anon 8.51 - it just struck home!
Steve - thanks for that. I'd like to take this further but just am not so well aquainted with specifics to do with this.

ut si said...

Well anon 5.13, I am really upset & I think lots more consumers should be.
Chef found the very pretty brochure that came with our porc & it says things like paddock BRED & that it's a farm that uses traditional farming methods based on a proven English free range breeding system. Then it bangs on about the farm environment being so lovely & pristine & near a river & nestling in foothills & that their pigs are paddock RAISED & roam about, stress free. It is so misleading.

Anonymous said...

My point exactly sorry I had to call you direct but I know your commitment to free range. Again as they say brandings is everthing and what a shame its allowed to confuse the unaware and more so the loop holes that allow it to happen. Soon you'll have true free range pork at your door step.

Anonymous said...

Ring that hotline if they are conning you!

Lucy said...

I'm usually a fairly cynical person, but it seems I've been caught out on the free range issue. I've always bought free range eggs, happily assuming that these companies were actually telling the truth (by law).

There are some free range eggs that are given the stamp of approval by the RSPCA, so I'm assuming that those brands are ok?

Thanks for highlighting this issue Rita

ut si said...

I'm so glad you called Anon 5.13. Chef is not happy. We'll contact our supplier & Scottsdale Pork Monday. Can't wait for your piggies to grace our plates. Stay in touch. x
Yes, well done again Rita. x

Rita said...

It shouldn't be about weasel wording on the packages of 'free range' or 'organic' goods. It should be about bloody well telling the truth! If you love your life of making money out of keeping chooks in a shed, 'living' under horrendous circumstances on top of each other, or other similar examples which I'm too angry to write here, then don't hide behind the politically correct banner of 'free range', or paint pretty pictures of barns and hay and baskets of eggs being collected by happy wenches wearing aprons!
Blind Freddy could tell you which is the better or more humane way to treat your pets/animals, no matter what their ultimate destination is.
I despair of mankind, I really do!
(Not happy about this, as you might be able to tell!)

steve said...

Rita why dont you start on your blog a list of free range /organic suppliers that we could all contribute to? I'll start

Nicholls Rivulet Organic Food farm-Beef & some vegies. Not certified but uses organic practices

Kelty Farm, Woodbridge-Certified organic beef, apples & cherries

Rita said...

It's done, thanks Steve - see my sidebar....
If anyone has others they'd like to add, just email me direct via the Contact Me tab.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link for those who are interested in some info regarding true free range pork and were to buy it, you will be suprised that you can count the number of true large scale free range pig farmers in Australia on two hands. My question is if thats the case where does all this other so called free range come from, I have never been able to meet my own demand with my herd as well as buying from some other small scale grower friends. Next time you buy free range pork in Tassie ask the butcher/stall holder where the pig has come from as there are no large free range produces that I am aware of that could meet the demand and if I'm wrong let me know so I can buy pigs to make product from to meet the demand

Bri said...

Thanks anon, for following up on your initial comment. The context provided in your second post was interesting. Good on you for trying to make a difference, and I'm sorry it hasn't come to fruition yet.

We really need the laws tightened and the definitions of the various terminology sorted out and successfully enforced by law.
Maybe something along the lines of the French Appellation d’origine contrôlée (controlled term of origin).

I apologise for jumping on your post, but the way it was worded rubbed me the wrong way a bit!

Anonymous said...

I am not being hostile or malicious when I say Nicholls Rivulet Organic Farm is bogus. They are dishonest.

Tasmanian Foodie said...

interesting topic last anon,
some questions should also be raised with the gourmet farmer if he makes his own bacon as the show clearly suggests or is it in fact his local butcher that does it for him. It would also be good to clarify if the pigs do, as the show suggests, come from his own property or have they at times comes from elswhere in the state?

Anonymous said...

I wish I could tell you what I know Tasmanian Foodie but you are so close to the mark, others should start to ask Mr Gourmet Farmer the hard questions as to how he was supplied enough pork to produce his products before he aquired his small herd late last year. By the way how does he have time to run and maintain a farm, trip around the state filming and produce product for his stall.