THE humble egg has become one of the most complicated items on the weekly grocery list.
It seems as if there’s a never ending list of different accreditation ticks, types and of course prices on the supermarket shelves.
But do all the stamps and labels actually help people to know what they’re buying?
James Kellaway, managing director of the Australian Egg Corporation, said it may not always be the case if shoppers were concerned about the welfare of chooks.
“I’ve seen a free-range farm where the welfare outcomes for the hens on the farm are shocking and I’ve seen caged hens where the welfare outcomes of the hens are great,” he said.
“If you’ve got a poor farm manager or poor animal husbandry on a farm, the welfare of those hens won’t be good, no matter what labelled egg is being produced.”
There is no binding legislation in Victoria enforcing guidelines for egg labelling, but a set of national recommendations that are expected to be followed.
Mr Kellaway said the Egg Corporation supported the government-endorsed labels, which included cage eggs, barn-laid eggs and free-range.
Mr Kellaway said cage eggs were sourced from hens that are continuously housed in cages, while barn-laid eggs came from hens in cages inside a hen house where they were free to roam.
Free-range eggs were sourced from hens not in cages, who lived within a hen house and were free to roam within the house and also had access to an outdoor area.
But Mr Kellaway said those labels were not designed to reflect the welfare of the birds.
“That is not describing the welfare outcome of the eggs, it is describing the production environment of where it has come from,” he said.
The RSPCA disagrees. It does not support cage eggs, but provides accreditation where they approve the welfare of birds to some barn-laid and free-range farms.
The organisation has a quality assurance scheme including random audits to ensure the welfare of hens at participating farms.
A RSPCA spokesperson said shoppers concerned about animal welfare should look for the RSPCA’s approval on the carton.
Brown Hill resident Kate O’Toole said she and her family had three hens of their own.
But Mrs O’Toole said her family would buy free-range eggs even before eating their own hens’ eggs. “It’s an ethical thing, battery hens are treated badly,” she said.