IN THE NEWS: Egg production: NZ farmers lose out on furnished cages

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IN THE NEWS: On FEB 7, 2018

NEW Zealand egg farmers have warned their Australian colleagues not to repeat their mistake of spending millions of dollars on now redundant furnished cages, with perches, scratch pads and nests.

Egg Producers of NZ executive producer Michael Brooks said the Government introduced a welfare code in 2012 that gave farmers 10 years to phase out conventional cages, telling them to move hens into furnished cages, or colony cages as they are referred to in NZ and Europe, barns or free-range systems.

But after spending millions of dollars on furnished cages, Mr Brooks said the NZ supermarkets stepped in last year to announce that from 2025 they would no longer stock eggs from any caged system — conventional or colony.

"Many of our largest farmers, about 14 per cent, had spent millions investing in colony cages," Mr Brooks said. "It's been difficult for farmers who went early, relying on the code, and have now been penalised by retailers."

Animal welfare groups pushed NZ supermarkets into phasing out the sale of all forms of caged-egg production,

The SAFE for Animals welfare group led a campaign calling on consumers to boycott colony cages, labelling their introduction a "cruel" con.

In Australia, egg producers are under similar pressure from the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups to abandon cages as part of a national debate on introducing new poultry welfare standards.

Draft guidelines released late last year for public consultation, by the joint state and federal governments' Animal Welfare Task Group, recommended the ongoing use of conventional layer cages.

However Australian egg producers are increasingly concerned Victorian and West Australian Labor governments are pushing for conventional cages to be phased out and replaced with furnished cages.

Animal Health Australia estimates the cost of replacing conventional with furnished cages is $935 million.

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