Countdown defends stance on caged eggs after attack from animal rights group

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Countdown has responded to a call by animals rights group SAFE to stop the sale of all caged eggs, saying the chain is leading the charge in free range eggs.

SAFE has today posted a video showing a Countdown shopper shocked to discover she's putting cage eggs in her trolley.

The animal rights group says Australian corporation Woolworths, which owns Countdown, is phasing out cage eggs in its Australian stores after customers asked it to.

"But they're refusing to show their Kiwi customers the same respect by making Countdown fully cage-free too, despite pleas from thousands of people," SAFE's post reads.

"Every single day they continue their double standards and delay their decision, is another day in hell for caged hens," it adds.

Countdown says in the last two years they have seen free range egg sales increase more than 50 per cent at its supermarkets. 

"We are making good progress, and in fact leading the charge," a spokesperson told 1 NEWS NOW.

We are focussed on working with suppliers to grow free range and barn supply over time, to avoid shortages and vastly more expensive eggs"
Countdown spokesperson

"Last year we announced the Countdown Egg Producer Programme for Free Range and Barn and told our farmers if they invest in more of those types of eggs, we will take those," the spokesperson said. 

Earlier this month, Countdown had announced it will go entirely cage-free in its own brands by 2022, meaning it "will no longer sell colony caged or battery caged eggs by this date". 

"We are the only national supermarket brand to make this commitment," the spokesperson said.

"This is an ambitious target. We need to find approximately 40,000 dozen free range and barn eggs per week to meet customer demand to achieve this, or 25 million eggs per year. These are free range/barn eggs which don't exist right now."

What's occurring in Australia is not relevant to what Countdown can do in New Zealand, the spokesperson said. 

"Every egg we sell in New Zealand, must be produced in New Zealand, given biosecurity requirements. Just 18 per cent of eggs produced in New Zealand are free range. 

"That is why we are focused on working with suppliers to grow free range and barn supply over time, to avoid shortages and vastly more expensive eggs."

The majority of Kiwi customers buy caged eggs across all supermarkets, the spokesperson added. 

Asked what proportion of Countdown eggs are free range, the spokesperson said: "Across Free Range and Barn eggs about 36 per cent of our sales are free range and barn eggs."

Last week, Countdown pulled Palace Poultry eggs form its shelves after an investigation by media organisation Newsroom claimed that millions of free range Palace Poultry eggs sold to Countdown before this year were likely to have been laid by caged hens.

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating the allegations.

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