Linda Hall: Free-range's free reign

By Linda Hall

There must be thousands of consumers out there feeling like they have been left with egg on their face - including me.

When the story broke early last week about caged eggs being sold as free-range I crossed my fingers and hoped it wasn't the brand I bought.

I have two boiled eggs for breakfast most mornings.

Then I heard it was Palace Poultry and I felt much relieved. But a few hours later I heard a couple of reporters discussing it in the newsroom and they mentioned the brand I bought.

Don't tell me that is true, I asked. Yes, they replied, according to a list they had found online.

I was upset and then confused when I went into Countdown and New World in Hastings and found both were still selling the brand and it had been reported that the imposter eggs had been taken off Countdown shelves.

So I relaxed a bit. I was quite sure that with the spotlight on them if there was any question about the authenticity of the brand they would have been taken from the shelves immediately.

However, that doesn't alter the fact that thousands of people have been duped into buying caged eggs.

A text sent to the paper laughed at buyers of free range eggs saying something along the lines of "so free-range egg buyers obviously can't tell the difference in taste between caged eggs and free-range."

They miss the point, for me anyway, of buying free range. It's not about the taste, it's about the welfare of the hen that laid it.

Although anyone who has eaten a fresh free-range egg will know just how wonderful they taste.

We've all seen the pictures of hens packed into cages, never seeing the light of day.

That's why I buy free-range and because now there are only two people in the house I can afford to.

I certainly couldn't do that when my children were young and I hadn't seen the pictures then but I totally understand why people buy caged eggs.

So, now Palace Poultry are saying they bought the eggs from a wholesaler believing they were free-range. The wholesaler is denying that saying the eggs were sold as caged. Both are calling the other liars.

I'll leave you to make your own conclusion.

What we do know is that someone has made a lot of money by deceit. When the investigation finds out who, then they need to be hit in the pocket.

After all that's what it's all about - money.

Perhaps part of the punishment could be buying a heap of chickens and chicken coops and giving them to families.

Of course this isn't the first time this has happened and probably won't be the last.

According to Consumer a Northland egg farmer sold caged eggs as free-range or barn laid for more than 19 months before he was caught.

After a guilty plea he was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and 200 hours' community service.

It's disappointing that people who made a choice to buy a product that ensures there are hens living a better life than some have actually paid for a human to live a better life than most.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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