RSPCA celebrates industry leaders in food services sector that use cage free eggs

The RSPCA has launched a nationwide campaign that focuses on Australia’s largest hospitality and food retailers who have switched to cage-free eggs.

The celebratory ‘Cage Free and Proud’ campaign recognises  brands such as McDonald’s, Subway, Grill’d Healthy Burgers, Nando’s, Harris Farm Markets, Arnott’s and IKEA, as industry leaders who have acted on consumer concerns and stopped sourcing eggs from battery cages.

They’re joined by national retailers ALDI and Woolworths, which have made the commitment to phase-out cage eggs in store by 2025, and Coles, which will phase-out cage eggs in store by 2023.

RSPCA Australia humane food manager Hope Bertram said the food services industry is the next frontier in the effort to rid Australia of battery cages.

READ: What eggs can teach us about traceability 

“While the cage egg industry and legislation lags behind, Cage Free and Proud is about positively recognising those businesses that have made the right decision by their customers and are helping free smart, social, egg laying hens from cruel battery cages,” said Bertram.

“The past five years has seen a significant shift in consumer buying behaviour, with cage-free eggs now leading the market share in the supermarket,” she said.

“However, there are still more than 10 million hens whose entire lives are spent in a barren wire cage, with space around the size of an iPad.

“The majority of those cage eggs aren’t going into household fridges; they are going into food services – such as cafes, restaurants and catering companies- as well as food manufacturing – packet mixes, mayonnaise, biscuits, cakes, and so forth,” said Bertram.

“Australians have voted with their wallets when it comes to buying cage-free cartons at the supermarket, and they want cage-free when dining out and buying premadeand pre-packaged food too.

“The commitment from these major brands shows there is no excuse for the continued use of battery cages,” she said.

“The future of egg production is definitely cage free. Through this campaign and beyond, we expect to see many more brands make the switch to cage-free eggs so they can also be Cage Free and Proud,” said Bertram.

The Cage Free and Proud campaign will be supported by a nationwide advertising and public relations campaign that includes print, outdoor, radio, television and digital advertising as well as communications activities.

Australian consumers debate the switch to free range eggs

New research from Canstar Blue has shown that there is a major difference in the egg-purchasing preferences across Australia as consumers decide between free range or cheaper, caged eggs.

There has been confusion amongst consumers over the distinction made between the two types of eggs in recent light of the changing labelling laws. As a result, Canstar asked 3,000 people to choose which type of eggs they tend to buy.

Of the 2,599 respondents who had bought eggs from a supermarket or grocer in the last three months, 51 per cent favoured free range were found to favour free range/organic eggs while 22 per cent said they buy caged eggs.

The survey found that consumers in Queensland are significantly more likely to buy caged eggs than those in any other part of the country -29 per cent compared to the national average of 22 per cent. Elsewhere in the country, New South Wales was 22 per cent, Victoria 21 per cent, South Australia 18 per cent and Western Australia was just 12 per cent.

Queenslanders were also found to be the least likely to buy free range eggs -44 per cent compared to the national average of 51 per cent. Consumers in Western Australia (59 per cent) and South Australia (58 per cent) were most likely to buy free range. The figure for New South Wales was 52 per cent and Victoria 51 per cent.

The vast majority of consumers (94 per cent) agreed that they buy caged eggs because they were cheaper, although 90 per cent said they would switch to free range eggs if they cost less.

On the other hand, respondents that bought free range eggs did so due to the higher quality (86 per cent). 90 per cent of consumers cited not wanting to support the caged egg industry as a reason for buying free range, whilst 84 per cent were happy to pay more for their free range eggs.

Ultimately, the Canstar research showed that the majority of consumers are favouring free range eggs and even those who do buy caged indicate that they would prefer to switch. Caged eggs generally cost half the price of branded free range eggs, although supermarket label free range eggs have narrowed the price gap.

The emphasis is usually put on the industry to improve standards, but some of those on the front line insist that Australia’s huge demand for eggs simply can’t be met without caged eggs, with claims there could even be an “egg shortage” when supermarkets phase out caged eggs.