Against Woolworths Plan to Phase out Caged Eggs

WOOLWORTHS shareholders — not animal welfare — stand to benefit most from the supermarket chain’s decision to phase out cage eggs.

That’s according to Victorian Farmers Federation egg group president Brian Ahmed.

In a move welcomed by the animal welfare lobby as “a major victory for battery hens” Woolworths last October said it would remove caged eggs from its shelves by 2018.

However, Mr Ahmed this week said supermarkets were simply capitalising on animal welfare concerns despite a lot of work being done by producers to improve conditions.

He said supermarkets were “very good at what they do and they know how they can increase the return to their shareholders”.

“They want to sell more free-range eggs because there is more money in them,” Mr Ahmed said. “That’s what it basically comes down to — $3 for a carton of cage eggs versus $5 or $6 for free range.”


Mr Ahmed said Scandata information from supermarkets showed supermarkets sold 140 million dozen eggs last year compared with 134 million the previous year.

The average price for cage eggs was $3.45 and free-range $5.59. “So when the price gets pushed from $3.45 to $5.59 you can imagine the extra turnover,” Mr Ahmed said.

“I can guarantee you a free-range farmer does not get that extra $2.10.”

Mr Ahmed said the caged-egg industry had introduced major changes in the past 10 years to improve its production system, in line with concerns from RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations.

“That’s what frustrates me more than anything else. People need to know the amount of work farmers do — the work that goes on to producing the eggs that are put on those shelves. It is a passion, it’s a big commitment and we don’t like being portrayed as these cruel people that are taking the advantage of animals to reap the rewards.”

Coles announced in 2012 it would not sell company-branded cage eggs.

A Woolworths spokesman said customers had told the supermarket giant a move to cage-free eggs “is something they’d like us to embrace”.


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