The undersigned organisations are calling for a correction to information on the caging of hens and the use of consistent and clear labelling to allow consumers to make informed choices.
New Zealanders care about animal welfare and most have welcomed or even celebrated the banning of battery cages for hens used in egg production. It has become clear to us, however, that many consumers have been led to believe that all cages have been banned. This is untrue.
A ban on battery cages in New Zealand came into force on 1 January 2023. Colony cages, another type of cage that also fail to meet the welfare needs of hens, remain legal.
This confusion has been fuelled by misleading marketing and information disseminated by some representatives of the egg industry, which has led, in some cases, to incorrect media reporting. It is disappointing that misinformation has been shared. The inaccuracies have been perpetuated and, as a result, the media and the wider public have been misinformed.
As a solution, we are asking for the following:
Avoid using phrases that inaccurately imply that all cages have been banned such as, ”Now that cage eggs are illegal” or “Now that the caging of hens has been banned”.
Alternative, accurate wording could be:
- “Now that battery cages are illegal, only colony cage, barn and free-range eggs remain for sale.”
- “Now that battery cages have been banned, only colony cage eggs can be sold, along with barn and free-range eggs.”
While celebrating progress on animal welfare is important, it is misleading to overstate the scope of the ban on cages. This is ‘welfare-washing’ of the egg industry, aided by some representatives of the egg industry. Cage eggs currently on shelves are labelled as “colony laid” or “fresh colony eggs”. This vague wording deliberately avoids the word “cage” on the packaging, and only tells shoppers the hens are in a group – a colony. Most people don’t realise the hens in question are confined to a colony cage, as it is unspecified. Consumers cannot be expected to understand this, so labelling needs to be the more accurate ‘colony cage eggs’.
At the start of this year, the Egg Producers Federation falsely stated on their website, “No cage eggs to be produced after December 2022…..As of 1 January 2023, it is no longer lawful to house hens in cages”. This is a misleading statement and established the inaccurate narrative that all cages were banned. Over a month later this misinformation was deleted from the website, but as a consequence the wrong information had already been unintentionally repeated and republished many times in the media.
The focus needs to be on giving consumers the correct information, so they can make informed decisions about the origin of the eggs they wish to buy. To do this, people must be able to understand that colony cages remain legal, and that colony eggs come from hens intensively farmed in colony cages.
All supermarkets have committed to only selling cage-free eggs by 2027. This means they will not sell colony cage eggs after that date. Only barn or free-range are classed as cage-free eggs. Until these commitments come into force, colony cage eggs are found on supermarket shelves, along with barn and free-range eggs.