Woodland has announced that this month it will launch New Zealand's first free range eggs that bear individual stamps of origin, so that the provenance of each egg can be traced all the way back to the free range farm where the hen laid it.

For consumers, this means that when they buy Woodland, they will get individually stamped eggs that they can be 100 percent sure are authentic free range eggs.

"As New Zealand's leading producer of free range eggs we were naturally very concerned about recent allegations that a small number of cage eggs may have been marketed as being free range," said Michael Guthrie, managing director of Mainland Poultry Limited, producers of Woodland eggs.

"This compelled us to fast-track our plans to guarantee the provenance of our eggs by providing complete traceability, from the farm to the consumer's kitchen. The best way we can do this, is to stamp each egg at the barn where we collect them, so there can be no question that it is, in fact, a genuine Woodland free range egg."

Swiss egg stamping technology

Woodland found that the technology to do just this had been developed in the Netherlands by Nuovo and have now brought this ethical food marking system to New Zealand. It uses safe food grade ink, so the actual egg is completely unaffected by the stamping process.

“Egg stamping for traceability is already regulation in the EU as part of the European standard, and has been in effect since 2012. Using Nuovo technology, Woodland will be the first brand to implement this in New Zealand,” said Maurik Wouters, owner of Nuovo. “By using the Nuovo egg stamping system, Woodland now operates to the world standard for traceability.”

Every Woodland free range egg will now bear the Woodland tree symbol and the code of the farm where the egg was laid.

“It is a matter of principle for us to give our customers 100% confidence that Woodland eggs are genuinely free range,” said Guthrie.

Genuine free range eggs

Woodland eggs are genuine free range eggs.

The hens on Woodland’s free range farms are free to wander in the pastures under the canopy of trees that protect them from birds of prey and the elements. They prefer to overnight in barns, but morning sees them heading out to roam in the fields – at Glenpark and at Ti Kouka in the Waitaki area of the South Island. They can forage for natural food such as insects, plants, grains and legumes, but are also fed on a mix of locally grown wheat and barley, supplemented with other grains as required. Ample water is provided, as well as sand-pits where they can take dust baths.

A smaller quantity of Woodland eggs is sourced from two of our franchise farmers who produce their free range eggs to the standards set by Woodland. These farms have a similar woodland environment, and the farmers selected as our suppliers have to meet the exact standards to those on the Woodland farms at Glenpark and Ti Kouka. This includes stamping at source in the barns.

At all these farms, the eggs are collected every day to ensure freshness, and individually given the Woodland stamp of origin.

More consumers want free range eggs

“Demand for free range eggs is growing strongly in New Zealand, and as the recent outcry has shown, consumers want to be assured that they get genuine free range eggs,”said Guthrie.

Free range eggs are much more expensive to produce than cage eggs and therefore more costly to buy – at an average of $7.20 per dozen, they cost twice as much as the average cage eggs, which retail at $3.50 per dozen. Still, New Zealand supermarkets are now selling 20% more free range eggs than this time last year. (Source: Aztec data: QTR to 16/04/2017)

Free range eggs are typically supplied by smaller producers. Woodland, as the largest of them, produces just over 20 percent of all free range eggs sold in New Zealand. (Source: Aztec data: QTR to 16/04/2017)