A Dookie independent egg farmer has weighed in on the supermarket price war on free-range eggs, believing the farmer will always come second when it comes to the big corporations.
Jo Nelson and her husband David burst onto the free-range egg market 10 years ago and have only supplied their eggs to a niche market of local cafes, farmers markets and one small grocery store.
On a farm of 1800 chickens, they consider themselves different to many other free range operations that supply the big supermarkets.
‘‘Many of the eggs sold in supermarkets today, I wouldn’t class as legitimate free range,’’ Mrs Nelson said.
‘‘These farmers providing for the supermarkets, they might have about 20000 birds, but they’ll all be in one shed, they’ll have thousands of eggs a day and a conveyer belt system to collect them.
‘‘Our birds are in eight sheds with their families in their own paddocks, and it takes us a good hour-and-a-half to collect eggs.’’
Australian egg industry lobbyists have drawn attention to the slashing of egg prices at Aldi, Woolworths and Coles, which have fallen by up to 40 cents per carton in recent weeks.
Egg Farmers Australia chief executive John Dunn told ABC the move had contradicted previous statements by Coles and Aldi, which he said had made commitments to phasing-out caged eggs from stores.
Spokespeople for the supermarkets have said the corporations had borne the brunt of the price change themselves.
But Mrs Nelson said there had been too much hype around the price change, particularly for eggs she believed were not accredited free range.
Thanks to the application CluckAR, launched last year by consumer advocate group Choice, being able to see the exact egg farm conditions of a product has proven that many eggs labelled free-range barely make the cut.
Under current rules, eggs can be labelled free range if they have a maximum density of one hen a square metre and get regular outdoor access.
‘‘At the end of the day, the prices will be cheaper for cage producers, because they don’t have to deal with the stuff free range people deal with,’’ Mrs Nelson said.
‘‘But when you look at the way many supermarket free-range producers operate, you can’t compare that to what we do.
‘‘I understand why it’s done, because what we have done over the years has been difficult, and it’s not economically viable.’’