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Success! Woolworths commits to switching over to free range eggs and apologises for “unintentionally” misleading customers. The First 60 products were promised by April 2010 - now we follow up ...
To all of you who joined the campaign by writing articles, sending e-mails, signing the petition and talking on camera - asking Woolworths to please stop using battery eggs in all their food – THANK YOU. ( view comments from the petition page )

19th APRIL, 2010

FREE RANGE EGG UPDATE FROM WOOLIES

In an e-mail to Wendy Hardie on 19th April, 2010, Julian Novak apologised for the delay in the roll out of products made with free range egg, and went on to say : “We are delighted to be able to communicate to you that the first 100 lines “made with free range eggs” will appear on our counters over the next 4 months, with 70 appearing in the next ten weeks.”

He said that they expect to launch the second wave of free range egg products by the end of the year : “We will be able to confirm this list and the timing by end June.”

To meet the needs of the 600 remaining Woolworths products still made with battery egg, he said that planning is underway to build a new liquid egg factory.  “We expect new production capacity will become available in approximately 2 year’s time….As soon as the factory becomes operational, we will expedite the changeover.”

TIMETABLE :

  • June 2010 – by the end of June, the first 70 products made with free range eggs will appear on Woolworths shelves. 
  • June 2010 – by the end of June - Woolworths will also confirm the list and timing for the release of the second wave of products made with free range eggs.  No details were given of how many these would be.
  • August 2010 – by August 19th, customers can look forward to there being 100 products on the shelves, made with free range egg.
  • April 2012 – they hope the new factory will be operational by April 2012, and will then “expediate” the conversion of the remaining 600 Woolworths products made with battery egg.

COMMITMENT : At a meeting on 26th October, 2009 - Julian Novak, Head of Woolworths Foods, was handed a copy of our petition by Woolworths customer, Wendy Hardie.

Julian apologised to her for “unintentionally” misleading customers with instore signage, and said that switching to using only free-range eggs in all Woolworths products was something they’d wanted to do for many years, but that the time is now perfect for making this happen.

He confirmed that Marks and Spencer, with whom Woolworths still have close “family” ties, made this switch in 2002, due to UK consumer demand for more ethically produced food. He said that Woolworths research, however, has shown that customers in South Africa still put price ahead of ethics. Julian said that in spite of this, he still feels that switching to using free-range eggs in products is the right thing to do, and commended those customers who did speak out during the recent campaign, saying that this has successfully pushed the issue to the top of the Woolworths agenda.

Julian Novak then committed 100% to making the switch to using ONLY free range eggs in ALL Woolworths products, as a matter of top priority.

ROLL OUT :

Julian said the good news is, that contrary to what they’d thought, there are in fact enough free-range eggs available in South Africa to meet the demand of all 700 Woolworths products made with egg. He said that by washing out and converting one of the liquid egg factories that they use in Gauteng, the first 60 products could appear on Woolworths shelves within 6 months…..that is - by April 2010 – i.e. now! He said that a second free-range liquid egg factory would be built from scratch at Eikenhoff Poultry Farm in Cape Town as a matter of top priority, which would facilitate the roll out of the remaining 640 products.

Announcement
Julian said that he would announce his commitment to staff the following day, but that they wouldn’t be making any public announcement till the first free-range egg products start hitting the shelves in April 2010.  However, he encouraged Wendy to celebrate the victory and put concerned customers’ minds at rest.

  • One month later Woolworths sent Wendy an e-mail – saying that logistics were more complex than they’d realized, and that they’d miscalculated on the number of eggs needed, and on the number of liquid egg factories needed, and on the time frames!  They said they’d also started to think that perhaps the roll out should be slower, in order to monitor public reaction to the price increase…(something never mentioned at the meeting – see below)*  Although still committed to the switch, Woolworths had NO details of any revised plan or timeframes by which customers could monitor progress.  What they were prepared to say was : “Woolworths is going to do it. All its products containing egg will convert to free range as fast as practically possible. The first ranges (no figure specified) made with free range egg will appear on the counters within a year (i.e. November 2010).  More info on the roll-out will follow once negotiations with suppliers are complete and we have more understanding of how long it will take for factories to be built etc.”
  • To date – 6 months later - April 2010 - despite repeated requests, we have received no further details from Woolworths about any revised plan or new timeframes to replace Julian’s commitment made at the meeting in October 2009. 
  • We urge customers to help put pressure on Woolworths to issue a clear directive by which customers can gauge progress towards the fulfillment of their commitment to switch to using only free-range eggs in all Woolworths products. 

   Julian Novak JulianNovak@woolworths.co.za

If Woolworths does deliver on its promise – it would be the first supermarket in South Africa to be completely free of cruelly produced battery eggs. This would be an absolutely fantastic achievement, setting them way ahead of their competitors in South Africa in this regard, and aligning them with international best practice.  So will they do it…?

RESTORED TRUST?

The way in which Woolworths rolls out these 700 products, their transparency with customers, and delivery on their commitment, will be a crucial test of the much larger question which this issue has raised - around that of Woolworths integrity.  During the course of this free-range egg campaign, many customers said they felt ‘mislead’, ‘let down’ and ‘betrayed’ by the discovery that Woolworths continues to use battery eggs in their products (where they are less visible), while displaying instore signage claiming to sell ONLY free range eggs, because “we think our hens enjoy having space to behave like hens should.”  

This begged the question : which hens are these - all Woolworths hens ... or just some?  Many customers felt that Woolworths deliberately mislead them by implying a commitment to free range eggs and the welfare of hens, while quietly using cruel battery eggs in all their food, where they are less visible.

This is therefore a wonderful opportunity for Woolworths to restore customers' faith, by issuing a clear commitment on the free-range egg switch, and then delivering on it timeously - demonstrating that their word can be relied on and that their integrity is intact.

By November 2010 shoppers are encouraged to start monitoring the roll out of the 700 products in their own stores, and feed back if they are happy or not.  

Customers should look out for “free-range egg” labeling on quiches, pancakes, omelettes, salads, pasta, muffins, cakes, biscuits, sauces, mayonaise, pre-prepared meals etc.  Those products that aren’t labeled as being made with “free-range eggs” will still be the old range of foods made with battery eggs.  Customers should also look out for “free-range egg” labeling when eating at Woolworths Cafes, or check with staff whether items on the menu are made with free range eggs or not.

IF IT DOESN'T SAY FREE RANGE, THEN IT'S NOT FREE RANGE!

* On the issue of price increase for products made with free-range eggs – in April 2007, Woolworths CEO Simon Susman announced their “Good Business Journey” – where one of his commitments was to an increase in organic and free-range food.  He went on to say: “It will involve investment, but we will not pass the cost of this on (to the customer) and we fully expect it to be recovered as we see the results of our actions.” 

The #1 news story for 2009
Is Woolworths just another bad egg?
So there you are; surrounded by posters of poultry basking in their freedom, your conscience and shopping experience clean because you are promised that the eggs you are buying came from free-range chickens. If chickens could smile, I’m sure we would be confronted by an enormous picture of a splendid beaky grin.

If you can’t find what you are looking for at your store, or you feel that the roll out is too slow, or that Woolworths is not living up to it’s commitment – then please use your voice to alert Julian Novak to this, at custserv@woolworths.co.za (NB : cc a copy to endfactoryfarming@activist.co.za). 

If you are satisfied, and feel that your faith in Woolworths integrity has been restored, we are sure Woolworths would love to hear from you about that too.

To help put pressure on the other retailers to follow the Woolworths lead, and banish cruel battery eggs from all food - please add your name to the petition at http://www.activist.co.za/campaigns/2009/ethicaleggs.php

Cows with Guns : A Revolutionary Tale
The Cows With Guns Animation (Animation by Bjorn-Magne Stuestol, music by Dana Lyons) has been seen by millions on myspace.com, youtube.com.
What Next? ► Get the Story Out
Why was this story not visible in the mainstream media?

We contacted every major media outlet with the story but only Urban Sprout and a few other eco Blogs published the story.

Encourage these mainstream media outlets below to discuss the issue (regardless of what their advertisers might say) ...
Media Objectivity?
Call the 5 FM Studio Number

089 11 00 505
SMS the CapeTalk Comment line on

31567
FOOD Inc. JohnM@capetalk.co.za

( too tired to write? we understand - just copy & paste one of the brilliant comments from the petition )

Submit the Story to Carte Blanche via their website by clicking on this link

( too tired to write? we understand - just copy & paste one of the brilliant comments from the petition )

Email the Mail & Guardian environmental reporter Yolandi Groenewald.

(She never got back to us on this story)

yolandig@mg.co.za


( too tired to write? we understand - just copy & paste one of the brilliant comments from the petition )
Post a message on the Woolworths Facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/WoolworthsSA



Howick Campaigners

Friday, 9 October was World Egg Day. In Howick, campaigners dressed in orange and yellow gathered to petition all Supermarkets in South Africa, the SA Poultry Association, The Department of Agriculture and all Restaurants to phase out the selling and using of battery eggs. Hundreds of signatures were collected as most conscious consumers agreed that free range was not only good for the birds but good for human health too.  In the European Union, all battery cages will be banned by 2012, a fact which had many shoppers wondering why South Africa is so far behind the rest of the world in caring about the violent manner in which some food is produced.  World Egg Day is the perfect time to reflect on exactly what we are paying for with our hard-earned money, and perhaps we should be asking why battery eggs are cheaper, instead of why free range eggs are more expensive? 

 Photo: Nikki Brighton,, Ncami Mpangase, Bridget Ringdahl, Caroline Conway-Physick and Nikki Tilley campaign for free range eggs