Why Woolworths hasn't honoured cage-free eggs promise

Woolworths has explained why it didn’t honour a commitment made in 2013 to phase out caged eggs by 2018 after a curious customer addressed the issue online.

A spokesperson for the supermarket seven years ago said within the subsequent five years, the retailer would cease selling “caged eggs from our stores and also the use of caged eggs in our own brand products”.

“The commitment for 2018 is to phase out use of caged eggs, so we'll be using cage-free eggs in the production of our own brand. So anything that is Woolworths-branded would be using cage-free eggs,” the spokesperson said at the time.

Just three years later however, the supermarket changed its plan and its caged eggs commitment – adding seven years onto its original timeline.

A Woolworths storefront pictured.
Woolworths initially said caged eggs would be gone from shelves by 2018. Source: Getty Images

A spokesperson on Monday told Yahoo News Australia that following consultation with industry partners and egg producers, Woolworths announced a revised timeline in 2016.

“We are continuing our work towards using only cage-free eggs as an ingredient in Own Brand products by 2025, so far 22 per cent of Woolworths Own Brand products containing egg are cage-free,” a 2016 animal welfare principles and policies report read.

“We are also committed to all supplier branded whole shell eggs being cage free by 2025 and we have seen a decline in caged egg sales since making this commitment.”

Additionally, the report said 100 per cent of Woolworths’ Own Brand products would be cage-free by 2025, as well as 100 per cent of its vendor brand shell eggs.

A Woolworths customer raised their confusion in a post to the supermarket’s Facebook page on Sunday, saying she had been notified about a post she shared seven years ago.

“So I was going through my memories and I found a post from seven years ago stating that you had a five year plan to ditch cage eggs,” she wrote.

“I then look on your website and see caged eggs. So [I] am confused.”

Woolworths has not responded, but others replied suggesting the retailer had more important issues to tackle given the current climate.

Woolworths cage free eggs seen on the supermarket shelf.
Woolworths extended its commitment to phase out caged eggs by 2025. source: Getty Images

“Did it ever occur to you that there is likely legitimate reason this change has not been made?,” one person wrote in a comment.

Coles also made a commitment in 2013, but perhaps a more realistic one as it planned to phase out all caged eggs by 2023.

Aldi in 2016 announced the same timeline as Woolworths, stating caged eggs would no longer feature on shelves by 2025.

‘Why are we exploiting animals at all?’

Spokesperson for PETA Laura Weyman-Jones argued “refusing to buy and sell eggs from caged hens is the absolute bare minimum for retailers”.

Ms Weyman-Jones encouraged consumers to also be mindful of the harm also involved in the processing of cage-free eggs.

“Even on farms claiming to produce ‘free-range’ eggs, tens of thousands of gentle birds are crammed into filthy, stinking sheds, and day-old male chicks, who will never lay eggs, are suffocated in gas chambers or thrown into high-speed grinders while still alive,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“It’s so easy these days to choose kindness, with the vast array of egg-free, vegan products at retailers like Woolworths. The power is with the consumer and the question is no longer about how big the cage or shed should be, but why are we exploiting animals at all?.”

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.