The real deal on cage eggs and layer hen welfare
There’s been quite a bit of talk about cage eggs lately and with the right reason!
In the wake of the incredibly lengthy evaluation (would you believe that it took eight years!) of the National Poultry Standards and Guidelines, Australia’s state and territorial agriculture ministers have recently signed off on the guidelines, which include the elimination of barren cages in battery cages by 2036.
This opens the way to an elongated and long-overdue transition from the barren battery cages. However, it is not clear exactly when and how the standards will be applied in each state and territory.
A 13-year time frame for phase-out is an extended period to allow Australian layer hens to live all their life in barren wire cages. We prefer an earlier degree out date; we’re happy that the new standards have been accepted – it’s an important move toward an appropriate direction. But there’s much to be done with 32 percent of Australia’s eggs remaining sourced from hens that are in cages with batteries (according to the ABS data between 2020 and 2021). We won’t rest until each layer is cage-free.
Australian consumers are choosing healthier choices by purchasing eggs from free-range and barn-laid farms, with the market share of barn-laid and free-range eggs growing year on year. So, who is buying caged eggs, and how do you stay clear of these eggs? Nowadays, caged eggs are mostly provided to the hospitality and service industry and are used in the manufacture of packaged goods. It would be best if you asked the restaurant or cafe you frequent whether they use cage-free eggs and also read the labels on packaged food items to ensure that you don’t accidentally support caged eggs.
We will explain the actual situation with cage eggs and what it signifies for clucky chickens and conscious buyers.
What exactly is a “battery cage”? The reason why they are being eliminated?
Eggs in cages are produced by layer hens that are kept in battery cages, which are small wire cages in which each hen gets a space that is smaller than one A4 piece of paper.
The RSPCA believes that the use of battery cages is one of the most serious concerns for animal welfare in Australia in the present due to the thousands of hens that are affected every day and the way in which their well-being is affected.
Hens living in battery cages are confined to the wire, without any outlet for their normal behaviors. They are more vulnerable to chronic health issues like osteoporosis because of their inactivity. It’s an awful life and a system of production that numerous welfare issues triggered by the battery cages are a fact, and you cannot achieve an adequate level of welfare for layer hens in the battery cage housing system.
It’s been a long time coming, but If you believe that the Poultry Standards and Guidelines are finally adopted across all Australian states and territories by 2036, it will place Australia on par with more than 75 percent of OECD countries that have been able to end the use of battery cages.
What does this mean for farmers, eggs, as well as consumers?
Although they have already been approved at a national level, every state and territory has to decide how and when they will adopt the standards and move away from cages for battery hens to other housing systems for layer hens from now until 2036.
The cage egg producers have an average of 13 years over the eight years during which the Poultry Standards and Guidelines were being developed (not to forget the many years prior to this when the idea of eliminating battery cages was in the works) in order to make the transition to cage-free housing systems like the free-range or barn-laying systems.
A number of producers have already made this change, and the ACT prohibited the cages made of batteries in 2014. The major retail stores Coles and Woolworths have announced that they will remove cage eggs completely from their shelves in 2025. This is a decision that is in line with consumers’ preferences; 77:% of Australians support the elimination of cages, and 87% say that the cages’ usage affects their buying decisions.
What are the things that conscious consumers should be looking for when buying eggs?
If you are buying eggs that are free-range or farm-laid eggs, any egg that’s not cage-free is a better option. But, the labels on packaging may be confusing, and knowing what a good layer welfare of hens looks like will help.
Egg-laying chickens are naturally socially curious birds. In order for hens to enjoy the best welfare, they require space to roam and spread their wings, areas for perching, rooms for dust bathing, and secluded nests where they can lay eggs. So when looking for eggs, you should choose producers who provide their hens with high-quality litter, perches, and other environmental enrichment, as well as lighting that replicates night and day times to allow for periods of rest and activity. If outdoor space is available, as in free-range housing, it is crucial that hens have ample access to the area and that they are provided with an outdoor area that allows hens to roam, with plenty of shelter and tasty plants. Hens can enjoy a high-quality existence in both barn-laid and free-range housing systems so long as the indoor and outdoor areas are properly managed and give hens the chance to conduct their normal activities in a relaxed manner.
Of course, we suggest seeking out RSPCA-approved eggs If they’re in the local stores. The RSPCA Approved certification indicates that the egg producer is frequently examined to make sure they’re meeting the exact specifications that are part of the RSPCA Approved Standards for layer hens. This gives hens greater standards of welfare than what is legally required, such as the requirements mentioned above and more.
Your choices are important.
We frequently repeat this because it’s true. Now, you are able to effect changes by pushing for the removal of caged eggs within your territory or state by informing your members of Parliament as well as the Agriculture Minister the reasons you favor an end to battery cages and the time you’d like for the process to begin. As long as each state and territory incorporates these Poultry Standards into their respective legislation, layer hens will remain in empty battery cages after 2036 in certain areas. While you wait, your choices at checkout are important. By purchasing cage-free eggs, you send an important message to retailers and producers that Australians are not in support of the use of battery cages with barren wires, and layer hens should not suffer.