Australian egg producers say Woolworths cage-egg phase out will reduce consumer choice
The Commercial Egg Producers’ Association of Western Australia Inc. (CEPA) is seeking a meeting with supermarket group Woolworths to discuss the Company’s recent decision to phase out all caged eggs sold in-store by 2018.
CEPA said the move by Woolworths, which would see all the supermarket’s Own Brand products no longer using cage eggs, “came as total surprise to producers”. According to CEPA, five years ago egg producers invested more than $500 million across Australia to upgrade their caged facilities to address concerns about animal welfare.
CEPA said phasing out cage eggs would take away “the rights of shoppers to make a decision based on their own financial or personal circumstances”. Consumers can currently choose from a range of egg products including ‘Cage Free’, ‘Free Range’, ‘Barn’, ‘Organic’ and RSPCA-approved eggs.
“If consumer want to buy non-caged eggs, then they presently have the choice to do so,” said John Simpson, CEPA President. “This is nothing short of Woolworths trying to look good in the eyes of the public, when in fact they are taking choice away from them,” he said.
Producers ‘disappointed’ they were not consulted
Mr Simpson said it was “disappointing” Woolworths did not consult producers about the plan to phase out cage eggs by 2018, or seek input on potential ramifications for the industry.
“Consumers are smart enough to know that it is not so much the production system that is used which determines the welfare of hens, but the management of it,” Mr Simpson said.
Australian Food News reported earlier in October 2013 that Woolworths had partnered with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to phase out cage eggs and promote “healthy eating”.
The move by Woolworths is the latest development in what has been an ongoing and often contentious debate about the definitions of different egg production methods in Australia. Australian Food News reported in the first week of October 2013 that consumer group CHOICE had made a ‘super complaint’ to NSW Fair Trading about ‘free range’ egg claims.