The mislabelling of “free range” eggs is not going to change anytime soon.


A consistent theme on this blog is the mislabelling of eggs. First, labelling eggs as free range when they are barn raised and don’t satisfy anyone’s idea of free range. Second, not labelling the rest as cage raised which of course 96% of the hens in South Africa are.

I recently met with the boss of the egg industry in this country and it is very clear that there is no intention of changing the labelling. Reading between the lines there are two reasons for this.

First, the retailers have no interest in changing the labelling. Why would they label an egg as caged? Why give up higher margins on the “free range” eggs? If your clients don’t ask questions then don’t tell them where their eggs come from. Big national chain retailers care about return per square metre of shelving. Whether they are selling dishwashing liquid or caged eggs is entirely beside the point.

Second, the retailers are hiding behind the skirts of the egg industry which in turn is hiding behind the skirts of the European Union department of Agriculture which has deemed that eggs from barn raised hens are allowed to be labelled as free range. In other words retailers say they are abiding by our national poultry regulations and national poultry says it is abiding by EU standards.

The only way you are going to know if you are eating a barn raised, cage raised or outdoor egg is to go and visit the farm where the hens are kept. Good luck trying to get into the cages or the barns. You will be prevented on the grounds of biosecurity.


31 August 2015

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