What do egg labels mean?
As is well known these days, most eggs don't come from happy hens. Over three million hens live short and cruel lives crammed into wire cages. Eighty-eight per cent of the one billion eggs consumed in New Zealand are produced by hens that spend their entire lives on an individual floor space smaller than an A4 sheet of paper.
So, with misleading packaging, standards and claims adding to shopper confusion, how can you avoid supporting cruelty?
To forestall government intervention, in 2006 egg producers agreed to voluntary labelling of eggs, and while this partly happened it is not industry-wide or mandatory.
Words like ‘free to roam', ‘cage-free' and drawings of countryside and sunshine on egg cartons leads the average New Zealander to think of happy hens dust-bathing and foraging in fresh air and green pastures-exactly what the egg producers want us to imagine-rather than the reality of large sheds confining tens of thousands of hens.
Shockingly, many ‘free-range' hens may never actually get to experience being outside.
The proposed new colony battery cages, or ‘furnished colony systems' as the industry refers to them, will only add to the confusion. These positive terms are used to divert attention away from what, for most people, would be the unpalatable reality of egg production. Here SAFE unravels the mystery of egg labelling, from caged to organic: