AUSTRALIA - The Australian Egg Corporation Limited has said it is disappointed with the announcement that Aldi is seeking to phase out cage eggs from its stores.
Aldi joins other stores including Coles and Woolworths, which have already announced similar moves.
AECL Managing Director James Kellaway said in making the decision to phase out cage eggs, Aldi is ignoring consumer demand. Retail figures show that cage eggs accounted for 51 per cent of all grocery retail egg sales in March 2016 and close to 70 per cent of total egg sales, AECL said.
“With cage eggs consistently accounting for around 50 per cent of retail sales, it is frankly absurd that Aldi is restricting their customer’s right to exercise choice,” Mr Kellaway said.
“The egg farming industry wishes to continue to supply eggs from cage, barn-laid and free range farming systems, in line with consumer preferences. The provision of eggs from these systems reflect current demand.”
“On average, a dozen cage eggs costs $3.31 while free range eggs cost $5.49. In phasing out cage eggs, Aldi will force consumers to pay more for their eggs. Aldi is taking a dictatorial approach to its customers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of animal welfare organisation RSPCA Australia, Heather Neil, said: “Aldi’s decision to phase out cage eggs will contribute to ending the inhumane practice of confining hens in cages.
“As the third largest supermarket chain in the country, Aldi has the potential to set the bar for other businesses to follow in their footsteps.”
RSPCA Australia urged Aldi to bring their timeline for transitioning to cage-free eggs forward to 2018, in line with other major companies.
However, AECL cited research undertaken by the University of Sydney showing animal husbandry practices have the greatest influence on hen welfare, rather than production method.
Mr Kellaway said that there are welfare advantages and disadvantages to each laying hen farming system, and Aldi’s decision ignores this evidence.
“Research clearly shows that the key to good welfare outcomes for hens is good farm management and that there is no variation in hen stress levels across cage, barn and free range egg farming systems. It is disappointing that science has also taken a back seat in Aldi’s decision to move away from cage eggs,” Mr Kellaway said.
AECL also noted that the industry continues to prioritise animal welfare, and actively supports farmers to meet higher welfare standards.ThePoultrySite News Desk