Humpty Dumpty has an existential moment.

I hurriedly went to the supermarket the other day in the hope I could get my hands on the mythical golden prize which is (here in NZ anyway), a carton of EGGS!!!. This was actually the 5th day I had been searching for them. I got to the shelves and there was none (insert expletive here).

Beside the empty shelves was a young man ( I’m old, so he could have been anywhere between 18 to 35), he was holding a 6 pack of Barn raised large eggs. I must have thought my expletive out loud… because he turned to me and said ” you can have these if you like as they are not free-range”. The supermarkets have always sold free-range eggs alongside barn, colony and before Dec 31st 2022 cage produced eggs, so why the shortage now?.

Photo courtesy of Mockup graphics via Unsplash

A bit of background information… Ten years ago the government of the time bought in legislation to stop battery cage farming of our hens by 31st Dec 2022, allowing for a transition to colony cages, barn raised or free-range production. Five years into this transition the 2 supermarket chains decided they only wanted to stock free-range eggs, which didn’t allow enough time for most producers to make the unexpected changes needed. Earlier this year, amid the chaos and shortages the supermarkets backtracked and will continue to sell non free- range eggs until at least 2027, this still hasn’t alleviated the shortages or lowered the now exorbitant price but it has shown that not all of their customers share the same free-range welfare values.

The supermarkets cite “consumer demand” for the free-range only policy and if my eggy savior is anything to go by, there is customer demand for values based purchases. But what about those who don’t share the same values or do not have the resources to enable them to make a choice, should they be excluded from somewhere as accessible as a supermarket? Is this social or values engineering? I don’t know and don’t have the answers but it has got me thinking about where people and food connect (not just the act of consuming) and how as a Food Designer I can encourage others to look at this. This one simple act of an unknown person handing over food to another because it did not fit his values has stayed with me for weeks.


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