Caged Vs. Free Range Eggs // NZ Vs. Australia

Caged Vs. Free Range Eggs // NZ Vs. Australia

What hens do in their cages, or what humans make hens do rarely makes waves in New Zealand. Although across the Tasman it’s a completely different story. The past decade has seen vehement protests and disgust by Australians at treatment of these creatures, kept in tiny cages in order to provision us with our daily food. The free range egg revolution in Australia captured the public’s imagination and so big supermarkets followed suit, stopping all sales of caged eggs. Late to the party, but still welcome, McDonalds Australia stopped using caged eggs in their food just this month, after years of consumer pressure via social media. So why hasn’t the same happened in New Zealand?

Caged Vs. Free Range Eggs // NZ Vs. Australia


The Australian Campaign

Animals Australia and the RSPCA led the campaign which was highly targeted, viral and occuring on primarily on social media. This was powerful and effective because of the level of engagement of users on social media, but the content that these campaigns was emotive, yet grounded within fact and not anecdotal evidence. It galvanised support from the general public and succeeded in raising awareness through shares and likes on Facebook and Twitter. Pretty soon Animals Australia had a display marketing campaign on the back of cabs, on billboards and on TV. The die was cast. It was a marketing masterstroke by a not-for-profit committed to improving the lives of animals.

That ain’t no way to treat a lady campaign

More videos from Animals Australia

Although in Australia, caged eggs are still around and they have not been banned completely. Watch here as a caged egg farmer defends his farm on The Guardian.

First of all, let’s define what we mean by caged, barn and free range eggs…

Not sure about other countries, but in New Zealand, we can define their dimensions as the following:

System How many hens Perches, scratching & nesting areas? Outdoor access? Hens per area
Battery cage 3 to 7 No No 1 hen per 500cm2 for cages built before 1 January 2005; 1 hen per 550cm2 for cages built after 1 January 2005.C
Colony cage 20 to 90 Yes No 1 hen per 750cm2 (or 13 hens per m2).
Barn 18,700A Yes NoB 7 hens per m2.
Free range 1300 (small farm), 11,100 (large farm) Yes Yes 9 hens per m2 inside; 1 hen per 4m2 outside.

B = hens can move around the shed but can’t go outside.

C = from 1 January 2014, all battery cages must provide a minimum 550cm² per hen.

Source: Consumer Magazine NZ

New Zealand’s Egg Industry

  • Retail sales are worth $250bn annually
  • Battery cages will be phased out. By 2022 all battery cages will be gone.
  • In their place will be colony cages, barn or free range farming.
  • What are colony cages?  See below for a comparison to battery cages.


  • Eggs in 1959 would have costed an equivalent of $10 NZD in New Zealand. In 2014, you can get them for $3.48. This is due to caged eggs being cheaper to produce.
  • Although, the price of FREE RANGE eggs right now is about $10 – directly comparable to their cost in 1959 (when indexed to inflation and income level changes).
  • Egg prices have dropped dramatically in the past 50 years, but it’s come at the price of animal welfare.
  • Battery cages do not meet the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act but they have continued unabated for decades.
  • Egg prices will increase with the move to free range, but this increase is based on an artificially low base price, that’s based on the suffering of animals.

Sources: Safe New Zealand and Consumer Magazine NZ

New Zealand’s Third Option: Colony Cages

To get this straight, instead of going down the same route as Australia and opting for only free range eggs, New Zealand has chosen a different path to appease agribusinesses and their bottom line rather than consumers – colony cages. See what colony cages look like below

Welcome to the brave new world of egg production in New Zealand…it doesn’t seem at all sufficient to me.

What you can do…

  • When you go to a restaurant or cafe, ask if they use free-range or caged eggs when you order food. Make a point of ordering something else if you find that they use caged eggs.
  • Don’t buy caged eggs, insist on buying only free range eggs and be a wise consumer at the supermarket.
  • Like SAFE New Zealand on Facebook and repost their posts about the disgraceful things that go on, just to deliver eggs into our bellies.


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