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Egg Industry introduces first industry-led trace program

A locally developed, industry-led source assurance programme will set the bar for consumers by enabling them to trace their eggs back to the farm they came from to verify that the eggs they want to buy are the eggs in the carton, says New Zealand’s Egg Producers Federation (EPF).

“True source assurance comes from authenticity across multiple platforms, and for that reason, we see this as the most ambitious primary industry-led programme available,” says EPF Executive Director, Michael Brooks.

“New Zealand’s egg industry has world-class farming practices and a unique disease-free status, yet a few bad eggs have threatened its reputation in recent years. To help prevent this from reoccurring we have a purpose –built a programme specifically for New Zealand that provides consistent source assurance across the industry and puts control back in the hands of the consumer.”

The EPF’s programme will come into effect in July, and comprises of two main consumer touch-points;
1. Eggs are stamped at the farm source using food grade ink, signalling the production system and farm they came from. This is the industry’s ‘egg stamping’ programme, and is voluntary for egg producers to join.
2. A mobile and desktop-friendly website called Trace My Egg (www.tracemyegg.co.nz) where participating farm’s details and unique farm codes are stored. Consumers can enter the five digit code stamped on their eggs into the website to verify the farm it came from and how it was laid.

“Overseas, egg stamping is focused on food safety, but our high standards in this area have not necessitated stamping for this reason. For us, this is about providing assurance of the egg’s source for consumers.

“Because we are a trade association, the EPF cannot mandate producer participation, but the robustness of the programme has already motivated sign up from many farms nationwide which collectively provide more than 70% of eggs supplied to supermarkets. From July onwards, consumers will start to see the distinctive Trace My Egg logo on the carton exterior which shows these brands are part of the programme.

The EPF has briefed key regulators, as well as supermarkets, government ministers and food industry organisations, receiving consistent support for the programme.

Phil Lemon, GM Merchandise Foodstuffs South Island says, “Giving our customers more information so they can make the choices which best suit them, can only be a good thing. This initiative will work alongside other programmes we have in place to help our customers every day.” Foodstuffs owns the PAK'nSAVE, New World and Four Square Supermarket brands.

“Our goal is to make stamping the gold standard for the egg industry. From July, consumers and retailers will see building numbers of stamped eggs stocked on shelves and by entering the code stamped on their eggs, they can be assured of the its origin,” says Mr Brooks.

Laurie Horsfall, a Hawkes Bay free range and colony egg farmer will have his stamped eggs circulating in the next few weeks.

“As an egg producer, you’d be mad not to stamp. It’s an investment in our industry and the whole programme is a real step up for everyone involved.”

Chris Martin is a free range farmer from Wairarapa and at 33, is the youngest EPF Board member to stamp.
“Making my eggs traceable and my farm operations more transparent, we can connect with consumers in a new way with a collective goal to rebuild the trust in the industry.”

Supporting the stamping programme are Mass Balance Audits (MBA). These audits are mandatory for all egg producers and are independently verified by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as part of each farm’s Risk Management Plan.

“By introducing advanced auditing requirements, the EPF has developed a comprehensive audit programme focused on a higher level of accountability for the egg producer and greater consequences for non-compliance,” says Michael Brooks.

“I am pleased to say that since the introduction of MBAs in late 2017, MPI has reported a high level of record keeping across every egg producer, with no further allegations of fraud in our industry.”

To ensure robustness, the egg stamping programme also has its own independent watchdog. The EPF has appointed audit experts AsureQuality to provide random spot checks on participating farms, in addition to being audited MPI.

“The EPF chose to develop this programme to make it easy for the consumer and wider industry to validate the authenticity of the egg and the integrity of its producer. We have made it as cost effective as possible for all producers to take part, and the uptake from the major producers to the stamping programme is testament to its merits,” Mr Brooks said.

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