Farmers clucking foul at egg ban

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

WA farmers are squawking mad over a decision by supermarket giant Woolworths' to phase out the sale of eggs from caged hens.

Commercial Egg Producers Association of WA president John Simpson said the move would reduce choice for consumers and push up egg prices.

"We are disappointed there wasn't any consultation with industry," he said.

Mr Simpson said farmers had invested about $500 million since 2008 to comply with the caged stocking density standards.

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"It will probably cost double that to replace with new free-range facilities so it will just drive up the cost of eggs," he said.

CEPAWA, which represents caged and free-range producers, said the move would have a devastating impact on some farmers with Woolworths accounting for about 40 per cent of sales in WA.

Woolworths said it would end caged eggs sales by 2018 because of animal welfare concerns. Coles moved last year to stop selling caged eggs under its brand.

Animals Australia said the decision was a victory for battery hens and consumer power.

"Hens have been paying a terrible price for cheaper eggs," AA director Lyn White said.

Kojonup farmer Kate Mason warned the move could lead to a "race to the bottom" in terms of what could be labelled free-range.

Mrs Mason has about 5000 hens and operates at under the 1500 birds a hectare stocking density recommended for free range.

"We need truth in labelling, we need the standards set out and we need regulation," she said.

Under its Select brand, Woolworths sells eggs labelled free-range which are produced on farms with 10,000 hens a hectare.

Mrs Mason said consumers should be allowed to vote with their dollar on egg production.

"I don't think we can feed Australia on free-range eggs because of the amount of land it would take to run proper free-range farms like ours," she said.

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