According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), it has initiated federal court action against Baiada Poultry, which supplies the Steggles brand of chicken products, and Turi Foods, which supplies the La Ionica brand of chicken products.
In addition, the ACCC is also prosecuting the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, the industry body representing chicken meat processors in the country.
Under the court action, the consumer watchdog is alleging that the said companies made misleading or deceptive claims through their advertising, in particular when using the term such as "free to roam in large barns".
Calling such labelling a violation of the law of the land, the ACCC alleges that the population density of meat chickens raised in barns preclude such movement.
According to the watchdog, it is asking the Federal Court to fast-track this case and impose penalties and injunctions on the violators as well as an order for the processors to correct their advertising.
The ruling has been predictably welcomed by animal activist groups and pro consumer rights groups like Animals Australia and Lawyers for Animals; they say the move is justified and long-awaited.
While the ACMF and Turi did not respond to requests for comments as of deadline, Baidada Poultry flatly denied any wrongdoing in this regard.
“The ACCC has commenced legal proceedings against Baiada Poultry alleging that the use of the term - free to roam in large barns - in its advertising is false and misleading. Baiada Poultry strongly refutes the allegation being made by the ACCC, and has referred the matter to its legal advisers,” a spokesperson said.
Food labelling of farmed products has been a topic for discussion for sometime now in Australia but there is no clear consensus on the standards in this regard.
January this year saw the Independent Panel for the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy releas its final report, which called for the establishment of an agreed Australian standard for terms related to animal farming.