Supermarkets dump cage eggs to win RSPCA acclaim

AN ANIMAL welfare arms race has broken out between Australia's biggest supermarkets, with each rushing to dump cage eggs and win the acclaim of the RSPCA.

Woolworths is progressively phasing out its lines of battery-hen eggs, with a goal to have them off the shelf by 2018.

It will also demand poultry suppliers abide by RSPCA or "equivalent approved" standards for fresh chickens before 2015.

Any chicken used in Woolworths' brand products will require the certification by late 2018.

Woolworths announced its plans alongside a new marketing campaign featuring celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to "inspire a healthier Australia".

Meanwhile, chief rivals Coles confirmed on Friday they had their own plans to phase out cage eggs, although the speed of that change would depend on suppliers.

"We would just be working closely with them to find out the pace that's appropriate," a Coles spokeswoman said.

She said Coles was already working closely with the RSPCA as part of its chicken sales, nabbing the animal welfare group's "Good Egg Award" in September for its shift away from cage eggs.

A spokeswoman for Woolworths said the difference between cage eggs and free range was currently about 90c, a gap she expected to shrink by the 2018 deadline.

Currently half of egg-buyers in Woolworths opt to buy those cheaper eggs.

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