Consumer confidence in egg industry grows

Consumer confidence in eggs growing, CSIRO reveals

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CONFIDENCE GROWING: Fish Creek free range egg producer Meg Parkinson says the egg industry must continue to communicate its progress to consumers.

CONFIDENCE GROWING: Fish Creek free range egg producer Meg Parkinson says the egg industry must continue to communicate its progress to consumers.

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CSIRO surveys show consumer confidence in eggs is growing.

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CSIRO research shows the egg industry is building the trust of consumers.

The perceptions of about 5,630 Australians were tested for the second year in what will be a three-year project.

Lead scientist Dr Kieren Moffat said more Australians felt egg farming had a lower impact on the environment than other industries (76 per cent compared to 66pc last year) and thought egg farming was a good use of land (77pc compared to 73pc).

"Hen welfare continues to be an important topic for Australians, with 77pc of respondents stating more needs to be done to improve the living conditions of hens," Dr Moffat said.

"However, only 57pc of the respondents agreed that egg prices would need to rise for this improvement in welfare to happen."

Free range egg producer Meg Parkinson, Fish Creek, said the challenge had to be faced.

"One of the difficulties that the egg industry, and agriculture in general, faces is that a substantial number of consumers are not prepared to pay the true cost of producing, processing, packing, transporting and selling our products," she said.

"The major supermarkets dominate the market but less than they used to.

"However, they are most interested in their own bottom lines before any other issue.

"Many Victorian egg farmers sell their eggs directly to small shops, small supermarkets, restaurants and at the door."

"However, the major supermarkets have a huge impact on farmers' lives as they impose their own requirements to give themselves a market advantage.

"The low prices they charge mean that consumers do not understand that the price is not high enough to allow all farmers' costs to be covered, much less the cost of changing production systems.

"Victorian cage egg farmers made substantial changes over 2003-2008, which left them with large bank loans in the millions of dollars.

"To make a change again out of cages will be difficult as they would need to get further loans as the new production system equipment costs millions.

"They will also have to wait until the few equipment suppliers which sell into Australia can fit the equipment.

"Banks are not keen to lend these sums of money unless they can see a return which will cover payments.

"So, consumers need to be prepared to pay more and communicate this message to the major supermarkets, if they want farmers to change production systems.

"The importance of price is interesting, 26pc rated it their highest priority but 24pc ranked it as their lowest."

Ms Parkinson supported the work the egg industry had done to improve community perceptions.

"This research has shown that as people understand more about the egg industry, some change their levels of trust," she said.

"The largest driver was the improvement in the egg industry's responsiveness - being willing to listen to the public and change over time.

"Also, that the egg industry contributes to Australia and its presence has tangible benefits for our country."

Australian Eggs managing director Rowan McMonnies hoped the results would encourage farmers.

"Running a transparent community engagement process is not for the faint-hearted and we wanted to see if the efforts made by the industry would cut through," he said.

"It feels like we are on the right track and egg farmers are starting to see the real value of increasing their engagement with the public."

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