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Egg war ‘unsustainable’

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July 26, 2017

The chief executive of a Euroa egg processing company believes a supermarket price war over free-range eggs is unsustainable.

Free-range egg prices at Aldi, Woolworths and Coles have reportedly fallen by up to 40¢ a 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 said the corporations had borne the brunt of the price change.

But Kinross Farm chief executive Philip Szepe was unsure if the campaign would be sustainable long term.

‘‘I think it will at some point impact on our bottom line, but I’m only basing that off what has happened with the dairy and bread sectors,’’ Mr Szepe said.

‘‘The supermarkets are always competing on price and eggs are in the spotlight at the moment, and next month it’ll be another sector.’’

A Dookie independent egg farmer believes the farmer will always come second when it comes to the big corporations.

Jo Nelson and her husband David started in 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.’’

Under current rules, eggs can be labelled free range if they have a maximum density of one hen per 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.’’

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