Largely as a result of Woolworths commitment to free range, one of our main egg suppliers has invested some R20 million in a new facility to produce liquid egg from free range eggs. This latest step on a journey begun more than five years ago means that Woolworths will be better able to make good on our promise to use only free range eggs in our products. By March 2012, approximately half of all Woolworths products containing egg will be made with, and labelled, ‘made with free range eggs’. The switchover will continue until every Woolworths product that’s made with egg is made with free range eggs. We are the first South African retailer to use liquid free range eggs in our products. More good news for consumers is that the switch to free range will not affect the price of these products. Woolworths Managing Director of Foods, Zyda Rylands, explains, “as part of our Good Business Journey, Woolworths has long been committed to free range farming. We started selling free range eggs in 2000 and in 2004 we became the first South African retailer to only sell whole free range eggs in cartons. It has always been our intention to change to free range eggs as ingredients. Many of our customers feel the same way we do about free range, and we promised them that we would do this.” Says animal welfare campaigner Wendy Hardie of Concerned Consumers, who has continued to urge Woolworths to speed up the process, “This action by Woolworths has shown that it has listened to customers and acted on what they asked for…even in a difficult financial climate.” Food manufacturers use liquid egg because of its consistent quality, convenience and high level of food safety. While Woolworths began using liquid free range in some products some time ago, converting to liquid free range egg has not been a quick process as the supply is very limited. Rylands continues, “We use about 180 tons of liquid egg per month. Not only do we need our suppliers to commit to investing millions of rands to build more free range housing and processing facilities, our suppliers also need to expand their flocks – as the hens only start laying at about 5 months of age. The average free range hen lays about 20 eggs a month, and it takes 23 eggs to make 1 kilogram of liquid egg. We need 180 000 kilograms.” “We realised early on that this would be a journey, but it is one that we – and our suppliers – are prepared to make. We know that our customers will be very pleased to hear the news, and to know they can look forward to seeing more and more Woolworths products with our ‘made with free range egg’ sticker.” ENDS _______________________________________________________________________ NOTES FOR EDITORS LIQUID EGG Liquid egg is basically egg which has been removed from the shell, filtered, pasteurised, chilled and packed. Because eggs with external hairline cracks (i.e., where the shell is cracked but the internal membrane is intact), soiled eggs and unusually shaped eggs which cannot be sold to the public, can also be used to make liquid egg, it’s economical. The process begins with any soiled eggs being washed. Then shells are removed and the liquid passes through a filter to remove any residual shell, after which it is pasteurised. The liquid egg is then cooled to below 4 °C before being packed into bags for delivery. The waste egg shells are used as a source of lime by compost manufacturers. To ensure complete safety, pasteurised liquid egg is tested to verify the absence of harmful micro-organisms before it is used in the manufacture of other products. OUR FREE RANGE LAYERS Our free range layers are housed safely in big barns with mesh-open sides allowing in fresh air and natural light. During the day they have access to an outside area, enabling them to exhibit normal chicken behaviour such as scratching, pecking and dust-bathing. They are fed a grain-based diet free of animal by-products.