Egg Shortage in Aotearoa/New Zealand - The Myth that Banning Caged Hens Caused It

Egg Shortage in Aotearoa/New Zealand - The Myth that Banning Caged Hens Caused It

Recently there seems to be a shortage of eggs on grocery store shelves throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand which has caused many customers to inquire as to the reason behind it. A ban on keeping chickens in battery cages became effective starting from the beginning of this year after being prohibited for more than a decade. Additionally, a ten year notification and phase out period for this barbaric way of confining hens were implemented upon the announcement of the ban back in 2012.

Are cage eggs banned in NZ?
The ban doesn't apply to every egg produced by hens in cages, but battery cages designed for holding between two and five hens are the only type of caging that's prohibited now. Unfortunately the use of colony cages remains permissible according to the law

There seems to be a deliberate attempt by the egg industry to spread falsehoods about the ban of caged eggs, as 'The Egg Federation' website had been claiming for over a month (but is now missing) that it will not be lawful to keep hens in cages from January 1st 2023 onwards. This assertion about housing hens in colony cages being unlawful is invalid since it's legal. However, this style of factory farming where hens are kept indoors and confined to colony cages remains a common practice in many parts of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

In and after December of 2022 all hen-laid eggs were to be cage-free.

Beginning on January 1st in the year 2023 it is prohibited to cage hens, however, customers could purchase eggs produced by caged chickens for a few weeks in early 2023 because these have already been laid before then. Due to this fact ,there will continue to be eggs designated as such

What eggs have been banned in NZ?

In Aotearoa/New Zealand it's just battery cages that have been prohibited, but the practice of egg farming is carried out at three different tiers in Aotearoa/New Zealand. There has been no change in the legality of the use of colony cages, but you can buy both free-range and barn (shed-raised) hen eggs at this store.

So why is there an egg shortage?

The egg deficiency is a consequence of two major contributing factors rooted in the opposition of the egg industry towards improving hen welfare.

A portion of the shortage was due to a few individual farmers who rejected change and persisted with obsolete battery cages until the last moment, while those who have closed their businesses have played a part in the current shortage.

Moreover upon hearing news about the implementation of a battery cage prohibition back in 2012 rather than pivoting towards finding alternative solutions and abandoning all types of cages altogether the egg industry persisted with investing resources into colony cages. However, Aotearoa/New Zealand is making moves towards a more ethical egg industry by eliminating cage systems from major supermarket chains.

Farmers have received little guidance from the egg industry leadership on how to strategically move away from cage systems and align themselves with established global trends, which has led to animal welfare progress being ignored by the industry and insufficient infrastructure investment, worsening the shortage. The farmers who foresaw changing consumer trends and opted for modernization have two alternatives: they can either keep hens in cage-free indoor barns or provide them with an outdoor area while still being mainly kept inside.

Not many realize that cage-produced chicken eggs are still being sold, even though colony cages continue to be lawful for hen farming in Aotearoa/New Zealand since battery cages were prohibited. Abroad these types of enclosures are often named furnished or enriched cages, which, when compared to the battery cage counterparts, offer more space and come with additional accessories.

What Are Colony Cages?

Colony cages, also known as enriched or furnished cages, are a type of housing system used for egg-laying chickens. They are an improvement over conventional battery cages, offering slightly more space and providing some additional amenities. However, colony cages still fall short of meeting the welfare needs of chickens, and they have faced criticism from animal welfare advocates.

Colony cages are larger than traditional battery cages and typically house a larger number of birds, usually around 40 to 80 hens. They provide some basic enhancements such as perches, nest boxes, and scratching areas, which attempt to address the birds' behavioral needs. However, these cages still confine chickens in a limited space, preventing them from engaging in natural behaviors and exhibiting normal social interactions.

The main reasons why colony cages are considered problematic for chickens are as follows:

  1. Lack of space: While colony cages offer more space compared to battery cages, they are still restrictive environments for chickens. The birds have limited room to move, stretch their wings, and perform natural behaviors like dust bathing, foraging, and exploring their surroundings.

  2. Inadequate social interaction: Chickens are social animals that thrive in social groups. In colony cages, the number of birds per cage is higher than what would naturally occur in a flock, limiting social interactions and leading to increased stress and aggression.

  3. Restricted natural behaviors: Colony cages fail to provide sufficient opportunities for chickens to engage in natural behaviors. The provided amenities, such as perches and nest boxes, may not be enough to meet the birds' behavioral needs fully.

  4. Physical health concerns: The confined space in colony cages can lead to health issues for chickens. Lack of exercise and limited mobility may contribute to muscle and bone problems, such as osteoporosis and weakened leg bones.

  5. Psychological stress: The restrictions imposed by colony cages can result in chronic stress for chickens. This stress may manifest in abnormal behaviors, reduced welfare, and compromised overall health.

The Problem With Colony Cages

Due to these concerns, many animal welfare organizations and consumers advocate for alternative housing systems that allow chickens more space, freedom of movement, and opportunities to engage in natural behaviors. Examples of such systems include free-range, organic, and pasture-based systems that prioritize the welfare of chickens.

What Can We Do To Stop Colony Cages?

To stop colony cages for chickens and promote more humane and ethical practices in poultry farming, individuals can take several actions:

  1. Educate Yourself: Learn about the various farming methods used in the poultry industry, including colony cages and alternative systems such as free-range, pasture-raised, and organic. Understand the impact of different systems on animal welfare and the environment.

  2. Support Humane Certification: Look for labels and certifications that ensure higher animal welfare standards, such as Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved, or Global Animal Partnership. Purchase eggs and poultry products from farms that meet these standards.

  3. Buy Free-Range or Pasture-Raised: Choose eggs and poultry products from chickens raised in free-range or pasture-based systems. These systems allow birds to roam outdoors, engage in natural behaviors, and have more space compared to colony cages.

  4. Shop Locally: Buy eggs and poultry products from local farmers who follow sustainable and ethical farming practices. This reduces the demand for factory-farmed products and supports smaller-scale, more humane farming operations.

  5. Reduce Meat Consumption: Consider reducing your overall meat consumption or participating in meatless days. By decreasing demand for poultry products, you can indirectly contribute to a shift away from intensive farming systems.

  6. Advocate for Change: Raise awareness about the issue of colony cages and the importance of animal welfare. Share information on social media, start conversations, and encourage friends and family to make more compassionate choices.

  7. Support Legislative Efforts: Get involved in local or national campaigns that aim to improve animal welfare laws and regulations. Contact your representatives, sign petitions, or support organizations working towards the abolition or reform of colony cage systems.

  8. Support Animal Welfare Organizations: Contribute your time, resources, or donations to organizations actively working to improve animal welfare and promote sustainable farming practices. These organizations often advocate for policy changes and raise public awareness about the issues.

Remember, change often occurs through collective action, so encouraging others to join your cause and promoting widespread awareness is crucial for bringing about meaningful change in the poultry industry. 

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