Un oeuf is enough: the media hold The Warehouse to account while giving the supermarkets a free ride

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Opinion

You may or may not have noticed but we here at The Feed took a few weeks off over the Christmas period to spend quality time with our families, deep-fry some turkeys, gorge ourselves on expired tins of ham, drink litres and litres of off-brand Spanish brandy, and smoke our mince pie flavoured vapes. But now, with Easter looming on the horizon, we’re back and we want to talk about eggs.

Our old friends at The Warehouse were ruffling feathers again over the holidays by dropping the price of a dozen eggs down to a poultry $5. Five bucks! That’s a full $3 less than the duoploy charge for exactly the same product. How do they do it? Who cares? Aotearoa needs cheap eggs and if we have to drive out to the Big Red Box on the edge of town to acquire them then drive we will.

As news broke of The Warehouse’s latest loss-leading, hearts-and-minds strategy, certain media outlets decided it was time to take a stand against colony farmed eggs and the inhumane conditions chickens are forced to live in to give us our cheap eggs. The Herald furrowed its big serious eyebrows and told us that “Colony eggs are from caged hens with living conditions experts say are just a small step up from battery cages which are now banned.” This is some sneaky marketing on the egg manufacturer’s part as they don’t mention cages at all in their packaging and the word colony causes consumers to imagine the chickens merrily clearing great swathes of native bush, preaching the chicken version of the gospels, and generally subjugating the local population of kiwi and takahe. Which is apparently not the case.

And you know what? The Herald is right.

Colony farmed eggs aren’t much better than battery farmed eggs and there should be better labeling so consumers can make informed decisions. But do you know whose fault this isn’t? The Warehouse. They aren’t the only ones selling these eggs and they didn’t make the laws surrounding animal welfare and packaging information. Why didn’t anyone right these articles when Countdown and Pak’n’Save were selling exactly the same eggs for heaps more money?

The Herald says later in the piece: “Unlike other supermarkets The Warehouse had no set plans to go cage-free.” Firstly, The Warehouse isn’t a supermarket, it is a big box retailer that is cannily sliding into a new market where there are obvious and ongoing failures in the practices of the two existing players. The Warehouse don’t have a policy on the future of egg sales because they may not be selling eggs in two months let alone in two years time. And yes according to The Herald:

“Countdown (which is currently rebranding to Woolworths) and Supervalue plan to be 100 per cent cage-free in the North Island by the end of this year and in the South Island by the end of 2025. Supervalue plans to be cage-free by the end of 2024, and Pak’nSave, New World and Four Square will all be cage-free by 2027.”

So that’s very nice. But these are promises the duopoly has made and as any good politician knows: its doesn’t get much cheaper than a promise.

As a gentleman of a certain age it feels deeply weird to be defending The Warehouse and holding them up as a champion of the consumer and as any kind of force for good. I remember when The Warehouse first opened it’s doors in the early 90s worrying about the Walmart-isation of New Zealand’s high streets, of the threat to small businesses, of the exacerbation of a buy-it-cheap-then-chuck-it-away consumerism. All of which is still true.

But a lot has changed since the 1990s.

And if The Warehouse is helping hard-up families put food on the table during a cost of living crisis and at the same time sticking two fingers up to the supermarket duopoly who seem to operate with complete impunity despite the promises of successive givernments and Commerce Commision, then long live the Big Red Box.


About the Author

David Wrigley

David is a writer and musician from Kemureti/ Cambridge. He has been published in Noble Rot, Nourish Magazine, Turbine|Kapohau, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and is currently working on his first novel. He has done his time in restaurants in Aotearoa and the UK. Oh, yes. He has done his time.

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