Australian Free Range Eggs: Augmented Reality to the Rescue?

Yes, I didn’t expect it either. Eggs and augmented reality? I promise I’m not talking about free ranging your Pokemon. There’s an AR app that can help you identify free range egg brands. Who knew?!

I pay attention to what I buy, particularly when, with very little effort, I can ensure I’m consuming and supporting ethical, sustainable produce. I grew up in the country, and my family have always had their eggs supplied by a tiny flock of their own well-cared-for hens. We let them range as much as possible, they roost in their little fox-safe henhouse at night, and when we “put them to bed”, we collect their eggs by hand. Those eggs have always tasted so much better than the many eggs I bought at supermarkets. Free-ranged hens produce much better eggs. The yolks are more vividly coloured, the flavours are richer. Maybe you can taste the sunshine, outdoors and happiness, I don’t know.

Unfortunately if you try to buy “free range eggs” at the supermarket, you’re probably not buying what you think you are. While there is a recommendation for the definition of free range in Australia, labelling is not restricted or policed. Most of the free range labels don’t meet recommended standards, or what the general public might optimistically consider free range. In addition, brands are different between some regions in Australia, so it can be difficult to be an informed consumer.

Knowing all this, and knowing that many people, if informed, are quite happy to simply switch brands, I occasionally share Choice’s excellent article “How Free Range Are Your Eggs?”. It describes the Model Code of Practice for the definition of Free Range, and lists an awful lot of brands along with the density of hen stocking on their land. The article was initially written over a year ago, and is regularly updated which is super helpful. Nice work, Choice!

But that article is not a searchable tool. If you have a poor memory, you’ll probably forget about egg brands until you get to the supermarket and reach for a carton. Then you have to remember the article, google the article, remind yourself of the recommended density, and hunt through the list to find the best brand on the shelf in front of you.

It was whilCluckAR2e doing this recently that I discovered, with interest, that Choice built an app which uses augmented reality to help consumers quickly check egg brands and how free range they are. The app is called CluckAR, and it’s driven by data from Choice. It’s available for free on both iOS and Android.

The idea is that you point your phone camera at the top of the egg carton and let the app do the rest. It recognises the carton and presents an indicator of “cage”,”barn”, or a free range grade from 1 through to 7+, representing the number of square metres per chicken (higher is better). Along with pithy comments on the grade, it also turns the top of the carton into a cute visual representation of the hen density of that farm. Hens in cages, little barns, in a densely packed field, or happily grazing with plenty of space.

Now the app isn’t perfect. In my local supermarket, in a shopping complex basement, phone signal is so weak that CluckAR is frequently unable to process my requests. But I like that someone has tried to find ways to make it easier and engaging for consumers to make informed decisions.

CluckAR3I also like that this is an attempt to use augmented reality in a useful way. PokemonGo and its kind might get people excited about what is essentially useless (and frankly gameplay-detrimental) augmented reality. VR headsets might be able to create immersive environments that people can enjoy and explore. But so far, very little has really tried to use AR a meaningful tool rather than a gimmick. AR has not yet started to become common, and technology users still don’t find the medium a natural and expected one.

You could argue of course that the free range egg information could be just as easily, and maybe even more predictably and quickly supplied, if people just scanned the barcode of the carton. Let’s face it, you’d be right. But imagine if our technology (and our Australian communication network) were better. Maybe in a few years. Imagine if the app were not only lightning fast, but could maybe identify *all* the egg cartons on the shelf almost immediately, and point the consumer to the brand that best aligned with their (preconfigured-in-app) values. That’s interesting.


I’m keen to see the evolution of tools utilising augmented reality, and what will come next. In the meantime, check out the CluckAR app and let me know what you think.


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