Australia’s fresh food people have taken a step in the right direction as far as animal rights activists are concerned, with their recent announcement of a plan to remove all caged eggs from their stores by 2018.
They have declared that, over the next five years, all Woolworths’ stores will phase out the sale of caged eggs by slowly removing them from shelves.
“It will be a bit of a change for our shoppers, but I think everybody will be able to adjust over time,” a spokesperson for Woolworths said.
RSPCA Australia’s senior scientific officer for farm animals, Melina Tensen, gave her opinion.
“Woolworths’ commitment will change the lives of millions of hens and shows just how effective consumer purchasing power can be… Clearly this is what the consumer wants and Woollies are trying to provide that,” she said.
According to statistics from the Animals Australia organisation, in 2009, 70% of all eggs sold at Woolworths were from caged environments.
Over the past four years this percentage has decreased to 50%.
By 2018, if all goes according to plan, no hens will be suffering in cages to supply eggs to any of Woolworths’ stores.
In addition to the outriding of caged eggs sold in cartons, Woolworths has committed to no longer using these eggs as an ingredient in any of their home brand products (e.g. biscuits, cakes, etc.).
They have also promised to adhere to the minimum standards set by the RSPCA in regards to the treatment of animals used for meat.
“This is quite a big step for such a widespread company. I truly hope they continue with their plans… it would be great to see all cage-free eggs on supermarket shelves in the near future” RSPCA Qld volunteer Amy Gayton said.
“Woolworths’ plan is already helping to make a change because more people are asking and learning about the difference between caged and cage free eggs,” another volunteer, Nicole Farleigh, said.
‘Caged eggs’ is the label given to eggs that are produced by hens kept in battery facilities (small cages built from wire and stacked in sheds on farms).
According to the RSPCA, the cages are typically 40cm high and contain 3-5 hens, giving them each space equivalent to the size of an A4 piece of paper.
“They are not able to exercise, bathe themselves or stretch their wings and they are not given any privacy to lay their eggs,” the RSPCA website states.
‘Cage-free’ or ‘free range’ eggs are produced by hens allowed to roam free on land and are not subjected to cages or other trauma.
While Woolworths’ announcement has pleased animal rights groups and activists; egg suppliers and farmers are not feeling as content.
Both the Australian Egg Corporation and the National Farmers Federation say they were not conferred with beforehand.
President of the National Farmers Federation, Duncan Fraser, shared his annoyance with the Sydney Morning Herald.
“There has been no consultation in the lead up to this decision… Producers get very frustrated when these things are jumped on with no notice and they are expected to act accordingly,” he told them.
There has also been discussion over the prices of cage-free eggs, but according to a Woolworths’ spokesperson, there is no need for consumers to worry.
“We are confident that the prices of free range eggs will have decreased by the time the five year plan has been finalised,” they said.
“The livelihood of thousands of animals is in our hands… Spending an extra 50 cents or so on products that have improved or saved a life will not be an issue for me… and I hope many others can see things the same way,” Nicole Farleigh commented.