Aldi has bowed to consumer pressure and announced it will phase out caged eggs in its Australian stores by 2025.
The news follows a social media campaign which saw consumers flood the German discount supermarket chain's Facebook page in protest over its continued sale of caged eggs.
Aldi has said the decision stemmed from its obligation to customers, suppliers and the wider community to “deliver great value products responsibly”.
“Aldi believes the best outcome will be achieved for everyone when the transition is done co-operatively and collaboratively with the industry, customers and other relevant parties,” an Aldi Australia spokesperson said.
Aldi also said it is working with its suppliers on a sustainable transition for the industry.
“Aldi believes the best outcome will be achieved for everyone when the transition is done cooperatively and collaboratively with the industry, customers and other relevant parties,” the supermarket chain said.
“Moving to cage-free eggs is a complex process and requires significant capital investment to be achieved.”
Egg industry bodies, however, have criticised Aldi's decision. Egg Farmers of Australia (EFA) said it would “hurt Australian egg farmers and can’t be justified on the basis of either science or consumer behaviour”.
“The simple fact is that over 50 per cent of eggs sold in Aldi stores today are cage eggs, so this decision is a slap in the face for Aldi’s customers who are being denied their freedom to choose,” EFA Australia spokesman John Coward said.
“This decision is an insult to consumers, many of whom buy cage eggs because they watch every penny and a potentially devastating blow for Aussie egg farmers who now face financial hardship because a foreign supermarket giant has taken a knee-jerk response to populist social media drivel,” Coward said.
Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL) managing director James Kellaway also expressed his disappointment over the announcement.
"With cage eggs consistently accounting for around 50 per cent of retail sales, it is frankly absurd that ALDI is restricting their customer’s right to exercise choice," Kellaway said.
"The egg farming industry wishes to continue to supply eggs from cage, barn-laid and free range farming systems, in line with consumer preferences. The provision of eggs from these systems reflect current demand."
Kellaway said that research undertaken by the University of Sydney has shown that hen stress levels are similar across cage, barn and free range farming environments and that it is animal husbandry practices which have the greatest influence on hen welfare.