Thousands of consumers wrote in to demand ALDI stop selling caged eggs and it seems the company has listened. The company said in a statement that all of their eggs will be sourced from cage-free hens as their policy shifts over the coming nine years.
“ALDI believes the best outcome will be achieved for everyone when the transition is done co-operatively and collaboratively with the industry, customers and other relevant parties,” the chain said in a statement.
While consumers may be happy the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL) are not. They said in a statement that ALDI’s decision shows a “fundamental misunderstanding of cage egg farming systems and their impact on hen welfare.”
AECL’s managing director James Kellaway claimed that ALDI’s new policy would not be giving consumer’s what they want.
“With cage eggs consistently accounting for around 50 per cent of retail sales, it is frankly absurd that ALDI is restricting their customer’s right to exercise choice,” Kellaway said.
“The egg farming industry wishes to continue to supply eggs from cage, barn-laid and free-range farming systems, in line with consumer preferences. The provision of eggs from these systems reflect current demand.”
Kellaway went on to say that hens’ stress levels were not dependent on whether they were kept in free-range, barn or cage environments.
“Research clearly shows that the key to good welfare outcomes for hens is good farm management and that there is no variation in hen stress levels across cage, barn and free-range egg farming systems. It is disappointing that science has also taken a back seat in ALDI’s decision to move away from cage eggs,” Kellaway said.
However, Dr Raf Freire, from Charles Sturt University (CSU), an expert in poultry behaviour and welfare, was reassured by ALDI’s change and refuted Kellaway’s assertion that consumers were demanding caged eggs.
“At a time when we are seeing some retailers put pressure on dairy farmers with unsustainable milk contracts, and potentially serious consequences for dairy cattle welfare, it is reassuring to see ALDI stand by farmers and livestock welfare by proposing to phase out caged hens by 2025.
“Contrary to the AECL’s Managing director’s James Kellaway’s assertion that ALDI is ignoring consumer demand, ALDI is responding to trends in consumer demand and perception. Although cage eggs currently account for 50 per cent or so of grocery retail sales, this is down from close to 90 per cent only a decade ago. This shift by consumers away from purchasing caged eggs is one of the fastest changes in consumer attitudes we have seen anywhere in the world, and ALDI clearly believes that this trend will continue. Considering the number of countries that have banned cage systems, such as those in the whole of the European Union, it is difficult to see this consumer trend for more free-range eggs not continuing.
Dr Freire went on to detail the detrimental effects of cage farming on hens and farmers alike.
“The welfare problems of laying hens in cages have been known for over 20 years, and few countries engage in research in this area any more. It is simply widely accepted that cages fail to meet a hen’s behavioural needs, with serious consequences on hen welfare. It is simply the logical next step for any retailer who wishes to provide animal products to a standard that respects animal welfare and farmer’s wish to engage in best practice that has the support of the public to take the action that ALDI has taken.
“ALDI are providing farmers with reassurance that if they invest time and money in improving animal welfare on farms, they will be rewarded by one retailer. Good for laying hens, good for farmers and consumers are provided with a product that shows respect for animals. What is not to support about that, Mr Kellaway?”