South Melbourne Market has banned the sale of all caged eggs from December 1, 2014, by introducing a campaign named “We Care about the Chicken and the Egg”. The ban includes all products manufactured with caged eggs. This means products such as pies, cakes, quiches, and pasta made with caged eggs will be forbidden to sell. Traders who sell eggs are required to label bird stocking densities as well as identifying the products as barn-laid, free-range or organic. But producers who use eggs in their food will not be asked to show signs.
Social Attitudes About the Campaign
The campaign has been widely criticized by farmers and industry commentators. Victorian Farmers’ Federation eggs group President Brian Ahmed stated that the South Melbourne Market was “taking away people’s choice” and would drive up the cost of eggs for consumers.
But there are also supportive. Hope Bertram, Marketing Manager at RSPCA Australia said they “applaud South Melbourne Market on its latest commitment to animal welfare.”
John’s Chicken manager, Olivia Inquanti, said the store only sold free-range eggs before the move was announced and it doesn’t change anything for them.
The use of cage-free eggs has also attracted the attention of supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths, and fast-food giant McDonald’s. McDonald’s Australia announced it would move to cage-free eggs by the end of 2017 in September 2014. Woolworths announced that it will weed out cage eggs from all outlets by December 2018. Coles also announced to move towards cage-free eggs. But it allows a maximum stocking density which increases nearly seven-fold than that of the voluntary guidelines.
Free-range Egg Labelling Standards
Currently, Australia has no enforceable national standards for free-range eggs, but there are several guidelines issued by different organizations, which stipulates different maximum outdoor stock densities.
The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry stipulates a maximum of 1500 birds per hectare for free-range layer hens. The Free Range Farmers Association(Victoria) stipulates a maximum of 750 birds per hectare. The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme allows a maximum of 1,500 birds per hectare for a fixed range system and a maximum of 2,500 birds per hectare for rotational range system. Some large supermarkets adopt a maximum of 10,000 birds per hectare for their brand of ‘free-range’ eggs.
New South Wales Fair Trading announced that it would lead the development of a draft National Information Standard for free range eggs.