The average Taiwanese consumes about 322 eggs every year, but pricing competition has prevented local farmers from embracing animal-friendly egg production methods, a Council of Agriculture official said yesterday.
Department of Animal Industry Deputy Director Wang Chung-shu (王忠恕) made the remark in response to animal rights groups’ calls for cage-free eggs.
With the support of animal rights groups, hypermarket chain Carrefour Taiwan yesterday announced that it would only sell cage-free eggs under its brand name by 2025 and would push its suppliers to achieve the same goal.
By the end of this year, its nationwide stores are to set up special zones to promote cage-free eggs, it said.
Later yesterday, the company and a group of animal rights advocates and egg farmers attended a meeting held by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to address egg production.
Open Wing Alliance vice president Aaron Ross displayed pictures taken at Taiwanese egg farms, showing chickens crowded in battery cages, and called on the farmers to join the global trend of cage-free egg farming.
The council has no timetable to ban battery cages, as more communication with egg farmers is needed, Wang said.
People are used to buying eggs at low prices, which keeps poultry farmers from adopting cage-free farming that might raise egg prices, Wang said, but added that the council would continue promoting animal-friendly egg production methods.
Animal-friendly methods refer to hens raised in enriched cages or barns, or ranging free, according to the Definition and Guideline of Friendly Eggs Production System (雞蛋友善生產系統定義與指南) released by the council in 2014.
Most egg farmers at the meeting said they do not object to rearing free-range chickens, but added that they are deterred by potentially higher costs and limited market access.
The cost of free-range poultry farming is three times that of caged farming, a Pingtung County chicken farmer surnamed Tu (涂) said, adding that he would consider free-range farming if retailers accept costlier eggs.
Carrefour cares more about prices than farmers, but with public awareness about food security rising, it decided to sell healthier and safe products, Carrefour Taiwan Foundation chief executive Marilyn Su (蘇小真) said.
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