Australian consumers are being ripped off on more than 200 million ‘free range’ eggs, according to Choice.

Consumer advocacy group Choice has found that Australians are paying twice the cost of caged eggs in order to buy “free range”, but they’re not getting what they’re paying for.

Choice has stated that egg companies are cashing in on the desire of Australian consumers to buy ethically, but the lack of a national standard has rendered the term “free range” meaningless.

The advocacy group said the Australian Egg Corporation Limited has admitted that around one third of so-called free range egg productions stock more than 20,000 hens per hectare, yet the model code of practice for the industry recommends a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare.

“For the first time we’ve actually put a number on the amount of eggs being sold in Australia that don’t meet the free range expectations of consumers and it’s over 213 million eggs sold last year,” Choice spokesman Matt Levey said.

When Choice analysed 55 “free range” egg products, 20 companies refused to give information about how many hens were on their properties. They also found that twenty-one other “free range” producers revealed they stocked up to 10,000 hens per hectare. Only 14 from 55 complied with the code of practice and had 1,500 hens or less per hectare.

Choice discovered that Australians are currently paying on average 99 cents per “free range” egg, and about 55 cents per caged egg.

Australian State and territory consumer affairs ministers are meeting in Melbourne on Friday to consider a national code for free range eggs.

Do you buy free range eggs? What do you think about the Choice findings?