John Garnett, a former egg producer from Whangarei, New Zealand, has been sentenced to 12 months home detention and 200 hours of community service after being found guilty of falsely labeling cage-raised eggs as free-range eggs. The court decision was applauded by the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand, which represents free-range, barn, colony and conventional cage egg farmers in New Zealand.

By falsely labeling the eggs, Garnett, owner of the now defunct Forest Hill Farm, was able to earn more money on the sale of the eggs at the expense of the consumers. Free-range eggs, because of the higher cost of production, demand a significantly higher premium.

An estimated 206,000 dozen eggs were falsely labeled between April 2010 and November 2011 and were sold to 38 retailers that did not suspect they were cage-raised eggs, the New Zealand Herald reported.

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Egg Producers Federation Executive Director Michael Brooks said the industry had initiated the action which resulted in prosecution by the Commerce Commission and would not hesitate to act in the interests of consumers in the future.

“The industry identified the problem and ensured the information was relayed to the Commerce Commission and we supported the commission’s proactive steps to undertake a prosecution. This was a serious breach of consumer trust and industry integrity,” said Brooks.

“We have also taken steps to ensure more stringent traceability processes, enforced by MPI, are in place to prevent this type of dishonest behavior in the future. “Mr. Garnett is no longer farming and has not been involved in the poultry industry for two years.”