Hen welfare code to push up price of eggs

A new welfare code for layer hens which effectively bans battery cages, requiring farmers to spend millions on new housing systems is expected to push up the price of eggs to consumers. 

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry today released the proposed new welfare code to seek public submissions, and said the annual cost of switching from cage production to "colony housing", barns or free-range systems would be about $15 million.

"Initially, the cost will be borne by producers ... in the longer term, however, price is assumed to increase, passing the economic cost of the new housing system on to consumers," MAF said.

It has yet to set a date for requiring all layer hens to be given sufficient space to stand erect and flap their wings, lay their eggs in a nesting area, perch, and show foraging and dustbathing behaviour.

This could include housing in enriched colony systems, barns (hens are loose inside a shed) and free range housing (hens have access to the outdoors).

National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) chairman Dr John Hellstrom said that despite the committee proposing a phase out of cages, it would not make a final decision on timing until after public consultation, which closes on March 25.

NAWAC said farmers could not make the change to colony systems overnight and would need time to plan changes to their systems, secure resource consent and financing, source new equipment, and train staff.

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