Woolworths' Eggs Ban Infuriates Farmers

AUSTRALIA - Woolworths says the price of biscuits, mayonnaise and other Homebrand goods are unlikely to rise as the supermarket chain bans cheaper caged eggs as an ingredient, in a drastic overhaul of its poultry products.
calendar icon 7 October 2013
clock icon 4 minute read

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Woolworths announced on Friday (4 October) that it would phase out all battery hens' eggs over a five year transition period, a move that angered some farmers but pleased animal rights groups.

As part of Woolworths' commitment to addressing animal welfare, caged hens' eggs used as an ingredient in its Homebrand products, such as biscuits, cakes and mayonnaise, will be replaced with barn-laid eggs.

A Woolworths' spokeswoman said the company would be working through the Own Brand range during the five-year transition to target which products contained caged eggs.

They were confident the price of barn-laid eggs would have gone down by the time change was introduced.

Cage eggs account for half of the eggs sold by the supermarket at an average price of $3.35 per dozen. Barn-laid eggs cost $4.76 and free range eggs $5.38, according to industry figures.

But egg suppliers and farmers say there was no consultation over the decision from the supermarket giant.

The Australian Egg Corporation said it was only told about the phasing out of caged eggs on Thursday.

The cage-free decision is likely to cost the egg industry significantly more than $500 million - based on how much the industry has invested since new welfare friendly cases were introduced in 2008 - to transform their farms to sustainable cage-free environments, National Farmers Federation president Duncan Fraser said.

''There been no consultation in the lead up to this decision,'' Mr Fraser said. ''The bottom line [is] the industry's production of these eggs meets the current welfare standards.

''If you want to bring industry along, just consult and let them know what you're planning,'' he said. ''Producers get very frustrated when these things are jumped on with no notice and they are expected to act accordingly.''

The supermarket's new partnership with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, renowned for his stance on ethically sourced food, has also raised farmers' concerns about whether the push for free-range products will extend to other products such as pork and bacon.

But animal rights groups and ethical consumers were elated at the cage-free decision, flocking to social media to share the good news. ''Woolies' announcement is a clear recognition that many consumers want to make ethical decisions when buying eggs,'' spokesman for the consumer group Choice Tom Godfrey said.

Animal rights group Voiceless, which has been campaigning for the ethical treatment of chickens, also applauded the move.

''For too long millions of hens have suffered in Australia within these outdated and cruel battery cage systems, yet changing consumer sentiment and a growing awareness of animal protection has brought this issue to the fore,'' spokeswoman Elise Burgess said.

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