Egg farmer allegedly sold caged eggs as 'free range'

The Commerce Commission has laid eight charges against Xue (Frank) Chen, owner of the Gold Chick Poultry Farm in west Auckland.

Four of the charges are of obtaining by deception and the other four of making misleading representations.

The commission says Chen sold millions of caged eggs between September 2015 and October 2017, promoting them to retail and wholesale customers as free range.

Mr Chen is the sole shareholder and director of Black Water Trading, which operates Gold Chick. A former employee blew the whistle last year, prompting a Commerce Commission investigation.

Free range eggs typically command a higher price than those laid by caged hens, due to the increased cost of production.

Reports earlier this year said Gold Chick caged eggs were unwittingly used in popular brands such as Farmer Brown.

Farmer Brown owner Mainland Poultry has plans to stop using caged eggs by 2022. Both Foodstuffs, the owner of Pak'nSave and New World supermarkets, and Countdown have promised to phase them out over the next decade.

The Egg Producers Federation says around three-quarters of all eggs sold in New Zealand come from caged hens, because they're cheaper.