Countdown will no longer be selling caged eggs at a number of its supermarkets across Auckland and Wellington, the company said on Monday.
Starting today, five stores - located in Milford, Waiheke Island, Grey Lynn, Crofton Downs and Newtown - will only sell barn and free range eggs.
The move follows a promise by the supermarket in 2017 that it would only sell cage-free eggs by the end of 2024 in the North Island and the end of 2025 in the South Island.
Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs, safety and sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, says the company has been working closely with its egg farmers since 2017 to build up its cage-free volume.
Today's move is critical to understanding future demand, she said.
"Animal welfare is a key concern for our business and our customers, but we're highly aware that people make purchasing decisions based on a range of factors, including price and what they’re using eggs for," Hannifin said.
"While moving five stores to completely cage-free is a big shift, in these particular stores around 90 percent of customers are already telling us that cage-free is important to them, so we hope they'll embrace the change to completely cage-free.
"While 2024/2025 might seem a while away, we have to work closely with our egg producers to establish a clear path to cage-free so that we're confident we have enough future volume to achieve our goal."
She said because eggs are an important staple food, Countdown was committed to working with egg farmers to improve animal welfare standards while also ensuring eggs remain as affordable as possible.
William Sandle, from egg supplier Otaika Valley Free Range Eggs said he was "thrilled" to see Countdown take the first step towards phasing out caged eggs.
"This reinforces for us Countdown’s commitment to proactively move towards cage free as the supply and availability of these eggs increases."