Industry's focus on animal welfare blamed for national egg shortage

New rules around caging hens and resource consents are being blamed for a nationwide egg shortage.

Suppliers are scrambling to keep up with the growing demand for free range and barn eggs which is putting pressure on supply.

Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand CEO Michael Brooks told The AM Show that farmers are struggling to keep up with changes to animal welfare laws which will soon outlaw the use of cages to house chickens.

"The current cages have to go. In 2018 a certain percentage had to leave the industry, it will happen again in 2020 and by 2022 all current cages have to go.

"About 15 months ago the two supermarket chains decided they wouldn't take the colony egg, which a number of farmers had replaced their current cages with."

This evolution within the industry has led to a decline in the overall numbers of egg-producing chickens in New Zealand, down from 4.2 million to 3.6 million over the past year.

Hans Kriek, director of animal rights group SAFE, thinks the current egg shortage shows consumers are becoming more caring and factory farming has had its day.

"Consumers don't want it any more, supermarkets are now getting behind consumers and saying 'yep, we're moving away from it'," Kriek told Newshub.

Brooks says this conscious change by consumers has hit some farmers particularly hard.

"It's a million dollars plus to move from a current cage to colony, now you've got farmers who made that move and have found suddenly that the supermarkets are saying 'in six, seven years, time we won't be taking these eggs'.

"If you're moving into free range, barn, you're looking at a whole new farm, new shedding and the resource management act is really proving problematic."

However, Brooks says the current situation is not expected to affect egg-lovers for long.

"There's not going to be a major shortage but... supply is a bit tighter than it's been for a while."