Cracking the Facts: Myth-busting the impact of the battery cage egg phase out 

What’s the truth behind the phase out of battery cages in Australia, and why it is making headlines?  


The Poultry Standards have been under review for eight long years. During this time, every year five million hens are suffering in battery cages, trapped in small wire cages permanently for 18 months, before they are slaughtered and replaced with the next generation. Now in July 2023, the new Standards and the 2036 phase-out have been endorsed by Australia’s agriculture ministers, but the time frame is up to states and territories to implement.

The writing is on the wall and battery cage systems have a shelf life. But still there are some in the industry desperately trying to fight progress, with blatant mistruths being played out in the media designed to scare consumers. With much confusion being shared online and via the media, it’s time to myth-bust some of the common arguments being put forward to stall the phase out.

So let’s crack the facts about battery cage egg systems and where Australia stands.

MYTH: The cost of eggs will soar if battery cages are banned.

FACT: 64% of Australian egg consumers currently purchase non-cage (free-range or barn) eggs and economic analysis has shown that they will likely see a price decrease of 4 cents per egg due to increasing economies of scale. Government-commissioned analysis found the increased production costs of moving from battery cages to the next cheapest option of furnished cages amounted to 5c per dozen.

MYTH: Hens are healthier in battery cages.

FACT: Battery cages cause incredible harm to hens, including the highest rates of disuse osteoporosis (brittle bones), fatty liver disease, highest rate of bone breakage of any system, extreme pain for hen’s feet from permanently standing on wire, and complete behavioural deprivation. See here for more about the poor welfare of battery cage systems.

MYTH: Only a healthy and happy hen would lay eggs.

FACT: Hens have been specifically bred to produce a high rate of eggs, and hens used by the egg industry are only kept for 18 months for during their highest productive time, before they are slaughtered and replace with new hens. Happiness has nothing to do with cage egg production.

MYTH: Australians want battery cage eggs.

FACT: According to 2021 polling by Kantar, 77% of Australians agree that battery cages should be phased out.

MYTH: Australia is leading on animal welfare in egg industry.

FACT: Australia is one of only seven OECD countries that has not introduced a national phase-out of battery cages for egg production. Over 75% of OECD nations have already phased them out, including the UK, NZ, and the entire European Union.

MYTH: Retailers don’t support a phase out of battery cage eggs.

FACT: Woolworths, Coles and Aldi have committed to removing cage eggs from their shelves by 2025. Plenty of major food manufacturers and retailers including McDonald's Australia, Arnott's, and White Wings are already cage-free, while others like Kraft Heinz and Unilever have committed to sourcing cage-free whole eggs and/or eggs used an ingredient by 2025.

MYTH: Consumer choice will be limited to only free-range eggs. 

FACT: Free-range will not be the only system. There will still be just as many options for consumers as there are now - free-range, barn, aviary, and furnished cage. Learn more about the different husbandry for laying hens here.

MYTH: The egg industry isn’t ready to phase out battery cage egg systems.

FACT: The proposed phase out is for 2032-2036, allowing 13 years for the small percentage of battery cage egg farmers to transition their farming systems to different systems. The end of battery cages has been under discussion since 2000, and this proposed end date of 2032-2036 for the past eight years. Being unprepared is not a viable excuse for lack of action.

MYTH: The phase out was for 2046 and this is new phase out of 2036 is short-changing battery cage egg farmers. 

FACT: 2046 was never the proposed timeline, this was the cage egg industry's proposal that was not ever accepted as the proposed date by the Standards and Guidelines. It has always been 2032-2036, depending on the age of the current cages. The fact is, a 2036 deadline is also not good enough. Up to 55 million hens will continue to suffer in these systems before they close in 2036.

Supermarkets, retailers, and consumers are already making the choice to support cage-free well before 2036. That’s why we’re calling on state and territory governments to shorten the phase-out timeframe and expediate the transition to more sustainable production systems.

It’s important we don’t get distracted by industry talking points about whether battery cage systems should be phased out – the writing is already on the wall, and it has been for years. The vast majority of Australian consumers agree with the phase out, so it’s simply not a question of if, it’s a question of when. And most people agree that it’s not happening fast enough.

Australian hens in their millions have suffered and died due to this archaic and brutal system, a system that has been relegated to the history books for so many other nations. Yet Australia is still barely taking the first step.

It’s a dark mark against our reputation as a nation that while this bad faith ‘debate’ drags on, is millions of hens continue to suffer. 

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