I was at the supermarket on the weekend to pick up some free range eggs when a new brand caught my eye. It had an eco-type brand name in bright packaging and proclaimed how buying those eggs was good for the planet.
The packaging was made of recycled materials (most are anyway), the chook poop is used as fertilizer (as it is from most egg farms), the company used recycled water, planted trees etc. etc. etc. Sounded great!
I was about to purchase a dozen, but there was a big, but subtle, gotcha.
In a color very similar to the packaging I saw the words “Cage”. It was barely noticeable at first glance.
Generally speaking, caged battery hens live in absolutely terrible conditions – crammed in, ulcerated skin, feathers falling out – it’s really atrocious; which led us to only buy free range eggs. I can’t say that’s the case with this company, but I saw no pictures on their site of the chicken’s living arrangements. In fact there wasn’t a single photo of a chicken or their facilities to be seen.
To me, part of caring for our planet is caring for its creatures; a somewhat hypocritical statement coming from someone who eats meat I guess; but I do what I can while I’m in the process of cutting meat consumption. Cage eggs are out.
So was this a case of greenwashing – the practice by which a company intentionally exaggerates their environmental credentials in order to bolster their green image?
Maybe, maybe not – it’s a tough call; greenwashing is pretty much in the eyes of the beholder.
The sad fact is that battery farms are everywhere and they won’t be shut down overnight – there’s an awful lot of infrastructure in place. It’s going to take time and consumer/governmental pressure to ban these terrible egg factories. It’s my belief though that these places should die a (un)natural death over time. Campaigns and clever marketing tactics to bolster cage egg sales will ensure it takes far longer for it to happen.
I certainly applaud the company for their other efforts – it was great to see and other cage egg companies should be doing the same, but the fact that the “Cage” was in print that was so hard to notice really irked me as many folks may not see it and realize what they are buying. It’s my opinion that this was a conscious attempt to mislead consumers. It wasn’t even readable on the picture of the carton on their web site.
It seems to me that if they have gone to so much trouble to create an “environmental egg”, they could have taken the extra step by going free range – after all, the chickens that lay the eggs are the centerpiece of their operations. It should have been the first step.
With that extra effort, I would have happily purchased their eggs and likely for life – even if they were a tad more expensive as a result. Additionally, I would have been singing their praises, mentioning the company name and linking to their site.
Moral of the story for consumers – read labels carefully. Green is big business now and companies know that. Moral of the story for companies – understand that cutting corners and promoting in such a way may backfire and actually work against you. Marketing strategies such as this can leave consumers feeling misled and doubting other claims made. It’s much better to be up front.