There’s been a lot of talk about cage eggs recently, and with good reason. With the recent endorsement by Agriculture Ministers of a phase out date for barren battery cages by 2036, farmers who are still using battery cages will need to transition to different infrastructure on farm. While the standards are still to be implemented by state and territory governments, this is still a hard-won win for millions of layer hens and welcome news for many.
However, with this news there’s been some confusion about what this means for egg buyers. Here we explain the real deal around cage-free eggs and what this all means for clucky hens and conscious shoppers.
What is a battery cage and why are they being phased out?
Layer hens in battery cages are unable to express natural behaviours that they have a strong motivation to do, such as perching or dustbathing, and risk chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis due to their restricted movement. We know good layer hen welfare simply cannot be achieved in a battery cage and this is why the use of battery cages must not continue.
What this means for eggs, farmers, and consumers.
Many brands and producers have already seen the value in improving hen welfare by transitioning away from cage eggs. Major retailers ALDI, Coles, and Woolworths have all been working over the last decade to remove cage eggs from their shelves completely by 2025.
ALDI has been steadily working towards their commitment of eggs sold in cartons to be from cage-free hens by 2025.
Way back in 2013, Coles completed the move for all their own brand eggs sold in cartons to be from hens in cage-free systems. In 2019, Coles transitioned all supplier branded eggs sold in cartons to be cage free in WA and did the same in Victoria in 2022. Coles are well on the way to completing their transition of all supplier-branded eggs sold in cartons to cage free and have also been working on going cage free with eggs used as ingredients in their own brand products such as baked goods, sandwiches and sauces.
In 2013, Woolworths made the commitment for all eggs sold to transition to be from hens in cage-free systems. By 2015, Woolworths completed the transition on their own brand eggs sold in cartons and have been working closely with their suppliers to transition all supplier branded eggs sold in cartons to be from cage-free hens. Like Coles, Woolworths is also transitioning all their own brand products where eggs are used as ingredients to be from hens in cage-free systems.
Dining out and manufactured products
But it’s not just the retailers that have been making moves to cage-free eggs. For example, Grill’d Healthy Burgers have used free-range eggs since they first opened, and McDonald’s made the switch to cage-free eggs back in 2017. And it’s not just that – many brands who use eggs in manufacturing their products are also moving to cage-free eggs by 2025. This means that by 2025, conscious shoppers will be able to find even more products and places serving cage-free eggs.
RSPCA Australia’s Cage Free and Proud directory lists many of these companies that have already transitioned or are working hard to transition to cage-free eggs, so you can see just how big this movement already is.
What about RSPCA Approved eggs?
The RSPCA Standard for layer hens sets a higher level of welfare required in the production of eggs and currently only two producers have RSPCA Approved certification – Rohde’s Free Range Eggs and Farmer Rod’s Free Range Eggs.
With more farmers moving to cage-free eggs, there are more opportunities for them to meet the RSPCA Standard and achieve RSPCA Approved certification. Our team is excited not only for hens to get out of cages, but the prospect of more hens having an improved quality of life by producers meeting our detailed standard, and farms undergoing regular assessments as part of RSPCA Approved certification.
Your choices matter
We often say this because it’s the truth. Right now, consumers have the power to be a real driving force for change in pushing for a faster phase out of cage eggs. While an endorsed phase out is welcome, allowing each state the discretion to decide when and how the phase out happens means there’s a danger of this dragging on even longer than 2036, leaving millions more hens to suffer in cages.
So your choices matter – and so do companies’ choices to commit to cage-free eggs.
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