Woolworths supports Gingin egg farmer

The Federal Court found between April 2011 and December 2013 that most hens from Snowdale Holdings sheds did not move around on an open range. Illustration: Anita McInnes

DESPITE egg supplier Snowdale Holdings being found by the Federal Court to have made false or misleading representations about some of its free range eggs the company still has the support of Woolworths.

Snowdale Holdings has egg farms in Carabooda, Beermullah and Bennett Springs.

In May the Federal Court found that some of Snowdale Holdings representations had contravened the Australian Consumer Law.

But a Woolworths spokesman said the company had confidence in the quality of all its egg products.

“Our supply from this particular producer (Snowdale Holdings) is from facilities which are considered best in market and we continue to provide our customers with a variety of egg products for their choice and convenience,’’ he said.

“All of Woolworths’ egg suppliers must adhere to relevant state legislation.

“In addition, we continually review our guidelines to ensure quality products are supplied to our customers.

“This includes visiting the farms and grading floors of our egg suppliers to guarantee the produce offered in our stores.’’

He said Woolworths sourced eggs from six free range suppliers in Western Australia and that Woolworths sold about 700,000 free range eggs in its Western Australian stores each week.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the Federal Court had found between April 2011 and December 2013 most of the hens from Snowdale sheds did not move around on an open range because the farming conditions significantly inhibited them from doing so.

“These conditions included the number of pop holes, the number of birds per metre of pop hole, flock size inside the shed and shed size,’’ he said.

“In his judgment, Justice Siopis noted ‘There is no suggestion in the images and get up used on any of the Snowdale egg carton labels that the laying hens are, in fact, housed in steel industrial style sheds about 100m long and that the hens in those sheds would have to compete with another 12,000 or 17,000 other hens, as the case may be, before the hens could even exit the shed to enter an open range’.”

Mr Sims said consumers expected that when they bought eggs promoted as ‘free range’ they were getting eggs from hens that actually go outside.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed proceeding against Snowdale Holdings in December 2013.

In recent media reports Snowdale Holding director Barry Cocking was quoted as saying the Carabooda and Bennett Springs farms were no longer used for free range egg farming.

Mr Cocking reportedly said the court’s “reasons” had no bearings on the Beermullah farm in Gingin.

When the Shire of Gingin approved Snowdale Holdings’ egg farm at Beermullah, which which includes Ella’s Eggs, in January 2014 it said the company had approval to keep 120,000 hens.

This week chief executive officer Jeremy Edwards said officers had visited the site and the numbers were within the permitted amount.

When the shire first approved the Beermullah egg farm one of the conditions was it was required to submit an amended waste management plan, which then had to be approved by the chief executive officer.

Mr Edwards said on behalf of Snowdale Holdings consultants had submitted an environmental management plan (including a waste management plan) on May 11 this year and that officers were reviewing it prior to chief executive approval.

Snowdale Holdings has also previously raised the ire of the City of Wanneroo.

City businesses director Chris Morrison said the Carabooda poultry farm was bought in March 2009.

Mr Morrison said an offensive trade licence for a caged egg facility was issued on June 12, 2013 and that some of the existing poultry farm operations had required retrospective planning approval.

Mr Cocking was contacted for comment.