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This is no birdbrain idea


This is no birdbrain idea

Jane Stephens admits the plan to take cage eggs off shop shelves has ruffled farmers’ feathers but we must join other nations and give a cluck.

Getting rid of cage eggs in 13 years is waaaay too soon, say old-school farmers. But their elimination can’t come a moment too soon as far as I am concerned.

This month, the nation’s state and territory agriculture ministers agreed on a date to get rid of cage eggs and allow only those laid by chooks that are allowed wriggling, perching and scratching room.

The draft national welfare standards and phase-out date were floated five years ago, so farmers can hardly be surprised.

I have long thought of cage eggs as the product of barbaric practices. The creature that produces a cage egg lives every day of its sad little life in a space the size of A4 paper, with the lights on, unable to socialise, much less do regular chookie things.

Happily, our appetite for these cruel morsels has been dwindling. In 2009,
cage eggs had 70 per cent of the market, falling to 30 per cent this year. People still buy them, primarily because they are cheaper – production costs are less when the producers are utterly contained
and controlled.

The move to ban cage eggs is not the result of noisy bleeding-heart animal activists getting their way. Really, it just brings us in line with other nations we consider similar. New Zealand finished
a 10-year phase-out in January this year. Europe and the UK began phasing out cage eggs in 1999 and banned them in 2012. Corporations are on board, too: Coles and Woolies have vowed to stop stocking cage eggs by 2025. Even McDonald’s stopped using cage eggs in 2017.

It is not as if chooks will suddenly be absolutely left on the loose. The new guidelines mirror those in the UK, and still allow for chooks to be kept in cages – just bigger, more humane ones that allow for roosting and nesting.

The announcement of the 2036 deadline this month led to a touch of hysteria, with some so-called news outlets claiming egg prices would shoot up to $15 a carton. It didn’t help that the ministerial agreement has coincided with a national egg shortage caused by cooler weather and high feed costs. Nothing feeds fear, rumour and greed like a shortage of something.

Banning cage eggs is the right thing to do and the time is always right to do what is right. And ethics aside, eggs from happy chooks just taste better.


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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