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Caged eggs are set to be phased out by 2036 – will it actually happen on time?

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A caged egg ban will begin by 2036 under a plan endorsed by Australia's governments. But one has already said it will make its own rules.
Australia phase out caged egg

Australian battery-caged eggs will be phased out from supermarket shelves within 13 years.

The proposal has been endorsed by Federal, state and territory Agriculture Ministers. However, NSW has rejected the 2036 timeline, and will commence its own phase-out on a separate schedule.

What are caged eggs?

Battery-caged eggs are produced by hens that live in small cages inside large sheds.

This differs from free-range eggs, which are laid by hens with access to the outdoors.

Battery-caged eggs are being phased out because of animal welfare concerns.

The caged egg ban:

The recommendation to phase out battery-caged egg production was included in an animal welfare standards document published by the Federal Government last year.

The document sets out minimum standards for useable space in cages. It also ensures access to important features like perches, scratch areas, and claw-shortening devices.

Endorsement:

The recommendations were endorsed by states and territories at a meeting this past week. However, each state and territory can still set their own timeframe, despite this commitment.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said some governments would “move faster than others [and] some will move slower”.

Coles and Woolworths have pledged to take caged eggs off their shelves by 2025.

What has NSW done?

The NSW Government has said it will forge ahead with its own timeline.

The state’s Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty told 2GB they had no deadline for phasing out caged eggs. However, she said they would operate in “everyone’s interest” to ensure the continued and steady supply of eggs.

Moriarty said that NSW, Australia’s most populous state, had a “significant-sized industry” that had to be consulted before the “right timeline” could be put in place.

Industry response:

The egg industry wanted to delay the phase to 2046 due to the financial impact it says a quicker transition will have.

Bede Burke, the chair of Egg Farmers Australia, said “it can take up to 30 years to pay off debt on existing cage egg
businesses” and that a premature phase-out could spark future egg shortages and higher prices for consumers.

Melinda Hashimoto, the CEO of Egg Farmers Australia, also said cage egg producers need more clarity from states “so that farmers can plan for their future.”

Could a caged egg ban trigger a price surge?

Caged eggs make up about 30-40% of consumer egg purchases in Australia. Their volume has sparked concerns a phase-out could lead to a future lack of supply.

A caged egg phase-out in New Zealand did contribute to a significant price hike for consumers.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt dismissed claims of a possible surge, saying recent modelling found the “average egg consumer” would pay less than $2 more per year.

Advocates’ response:

The Australian Alliance for Animals’ Policy Director Jed Goodfellow said he was “disappointed” states and territories can determine their own timelines for the phase-out.

He said it added uncertainty for consumers and the industry.

Goodfellow still “fully” expects NSW to work towards the 2036 timeline, and has called on each government to release their timeline for the phase-out.

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