Is ‘free range’ the same as organic?
Free range does not mean organic. Though some non-organic farmers raise animals in relatively open conditions, this, on its own, does not allow for those animals, or any derived food, to be labelled as organic or free range. Organic production methods place a high value on animal welfare with the result that all organically-reared animals and derived food could be considered free range according to the general understanding of that term. The term ‘free range’ is legally defined for certain foods and can only be used on these foods when certain production and processing criteria are met.
What foods can be called ‘free range’?
The term ‘free range’ is legally defined for two foods – eggs and poultry meat. Therefore, only these two types of food can be called ‘free range’ and only where they meet the requirements set out for use of this term in the relevant legislation. However, there may be foods labelled as ‘free range’ on the market which conform with voluntary standards associated with quality schemes (such as Bord Bia’s Pigmeat Quality Assurance Schemes) but consumers should be aware that these claims do not have any legal status.
When can I use the ‘free range’ label on eggs and poultry meat?
Poultry meat and eggs that carry a ‘free range’ label must have been produced in registered establishments complying with legislative requirements relating to housing, open air runs and stocking density. Registered ‘free range’ egg and poultry meat producers are inspected regularly by DAFM inspection staff.
Can I call my eggs 'organic free range eggs'?
No. Only one farming method can be marked on the pack of eggs and indicated in the producer code, so it must be either 'free range' or 'organic', but not both.
How do I apply for the ‘free range’ label?
Eggs and poultry meat may be marketed under the term 'free range', provided the applicable requirements of the legislation have been met. Producers and packers using this term and indication must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and comply with relevant legislation. Producers wishing to use the term ‘free range’ are required to keep appropriate records and are subject to official Department inspections. Egg packs must indicate the farming method used and the permitted terms are 'cage', 'free range', 'barn' or 'organic'. Certain criteria is laid down in the legislation regarding the use of each term and the applicable requirements of the legislation must be met for the particular term indicated on the egg pack. Producers and packers using these terms and indications must be registered with DAFM and comply with relevant legislation.