Woolies to pull caged eggs

04 Oct, 2013 05:35 AM

UPDATED: WOOLWORTHS will phase out all caged eggs sold in store by 2018, including those used as ingredients in its Own Brand products.

"We are working with our suppliers to support them through the transition period, including long term supply contracts so they can have the confidence to invest in infrastructure changes and reducing the cost of production to keep prices affordable," a Woolworths spokeswoman said.

While caged eggs are a cheaper alternative for shoppers, the spokeswoman said the company did not think the decision to phase out the eggs would hurt Woolworths' reputation for value.

"Woolworths is known for offering our customers the best value," she said.

"Over the past ten years, we have seen the price gap between caged and barn laid eggs begin to close."

The spokeswoman said it was hoped by the final transition in 2018, this trend will have continued enough for the phasing out of caged eggs to have no economic impact.

"We will work closely with the industry over the next five years to improve efficiencies and minimise cost which should see the price of barn laid eggs reduce by the time this change is introduced," she said.

The change will mean a rise in egg prices, with caged eggs being the cheapest option.

Battery hens lay half of the eggs currently sold by Woolworths - the phase-out will affect 12 caged egg suppliers that will have to shift to a sustainable cage-free model.

Victorian Farmers' Federation egg group president Brian Ahmed said producers had only recently upgraded infrastructure to meet industry requirements in the past five years, and the move would prove costly for farmers.

Woolworths said the treatment of meat chickens will also have to adhere to the minimum standards set by the RSPCA. This includes adequate access to water and food, adequate space and freedom from ''discomfort, pain, distress'', according to the guidelines.

Woolworths is not the only chain addressing the treatment of chickens.

Coles announced it would stop selling company branded caged eggs in October last year, accounting for 350,000 hens that were freed from cages.

Consumers can now buy ''welfare-friendly'' eggs from the Coles branded products.

The popularity of caged eggs has fallen noticeably in recent years as consumers demand a stronger commitment to animal welfare. In 2009, caged eggs made up 70 per cent of all eggs sold in Woolworths; it now comprises 50 per cent.

A Primary Industries Standing Committee report, published by CSIRO Publishing, on poultry standards show that chickens that are caged have a limited ability to perch, fully stretch or lay eggs in a nest. Diseases are also difficult to contain within caged environments, the report said.

But less than five years ago, consumers would not have known if they were buying free-range, barn-laid or caged eggs.

It was only in late 2009 that Woolworths started clearly labelling how their eggs had been farmed, clearly separating free-range, barn-laid and caged eggs.

A report by consumer group Choice found the average cost of cage eggs was 43¢ per 100g, while the cost of barn-laid eggs was 80¢ and free-range eggs was 93¢. The report, released this week, found free-range eggs cost more than double what caged eggs cost, but the number of chickens varied from the recommended 1500 chickens per hectare to 20,000 per hectare.

Woolworths' Select own brand of free-range eggs have 10,000 chickens per hectare.

Macro, another of Woolworths' brands, uses a chicken stocking density of 1500 birds per hectare - the recommended standard for free-range.

As of last week, the stocking density will now be labelled on all Woolworths Select free-range eggs.

The Land and SMH
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


8/10/2013 9:31:32 AM

Barker, have you ever opened the door on a battery hen cage to see if they will run like crazy to get out? If not, how do you know they don't like living in there? Someone born in a high rise unit in the city can like it, that's because they don't know any different.
8/10/2013 9:18:25 AM

By the way Bushie Bill, I'm not a caged chicken farmer but an ordinary citizen with common sense, who has had to do with local chicken farms. Battery hens are kept in air conditioned buildings and fed a balanced grain based and protein diet. When the hen lays an egg, it immediately rolls down onto a conveyor belt and is conveyed to the egg packing plant and is transported directly to food distribution points. I also have relatives who free range farmed laying hens. The hens are exposed to the elements of sun and rain and feral animals. The eggs are more often than not stale and filthy.
7/10/2013 5:11:40 PM

I'm not a chook farmer, but I know 50 people died from Salmonella poisoning in the 1950's in Sydney from free range eggs. Large systems have to guarantee food safety and I have no confidence in large free range systems. I sure as hell won't be buying them. And I know the welfare standards will drop. Get the RSPCA to quote the mortality rates to get an idea.
6/10/2013 4:56:39 PM

Jen -- Do you really know what you are talking about? We have had laying hens for years ,never had chooks trying to kill each other. They are locked up safely at night and let out each morning to fossick around all day. I think it's a disgrace to keep hens in small cages all their lives.
Bushie Bill
5/10/2013 2:28:09 PM

So far, a few posts from caged chicken farmers...anyone with some objective views?
5/10/2013 9:03:15 AM

What happened to letting the consumer decide? If consumers want so called free range, they will buy it. If they want cage eggs they will have that choice too. These supermarkets are going too far, they are not there to dictate to the customer what we should buy. Remember their motives are all about profit and nothing else. Good comment Dennis, well said.
Jen from the bush
4/10/2013 5:00:48 PM

I have had chooks and I got real sick of having eggs broken(just get a broody hen), eggs muddy(just get rain) and eggs pooed on and seeing hens pick on 1 hen to where I had to separate it/kill it or let them kill it! And before anyone tells me again that I had them too crowded I did not and I had plenty of nests! I want SAFE CLEAN EGGS from hens which cannot hurt each other. And I am not interested in buying chook poo in anything other than garden fertilizer
4/10/2013 4:58:37 PM

Hens in Cages are very contented provided the cages are not too smal.Free Range good if not too crowded and have it set up so they can be let into a different yard every 10 to 15 days.
4/10/2013 1:37:00 PM

I wonder if they will treat egg producers the same as dairy farmers and beat them down to a price below cost of production?
4/10/2013 10:53:55 AM

my wife bought free range eggs by mistake last week, and the quality was inconsistent. Some egg yolks were a filthy light brown colour and others just plain stale. Give me a fresh cage egg any day.
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