what’s with the plastic egg carton?!

summary: President’s Choice packaging for free-run egg; how much room do the PC hens really have to range? (click on image to see larger view and more photos)

eggs While it’s true that I’m toying with the idea of running a couple of hens in the backyard, I have to admit that it’s just toying. I haven’t even begun to consider how to deal with the raccoons and feral cats OR where these hens would be in the winter OR what we would do with them once they stopped laying.

In the meantime, I really do prefer the idea of eating eggs from free-run chickens. I don’t care if the shells are brown or white. I do care if I have to wander all over town to find affordable free-run eggs.

So it makes me happy that President’s Choice (Loblaws, NoFrills, etc) has jumped onto the free-run eggs band wagon. Yes, the price is premium at easily twice the amount per dozen than for caged hen eggs.

The price does give me pause, but does it make me unhappy about these eggs? No, it’s the packaging that makes me really unhappy.

How do you spell “overpackaging”?

Is this ridiculous amount of plastic packaging one of the reasons that these dozen eggs cost a little over $4? A plastic egg carton?? With so much talk of global warming and bulging land-fill causing us to have to ship our waste out of the country, how insane is that?

While it’s true that the plastic is accepted by Toronto’s recycling, it’s still plastic. Plastic cannot be added to the compost; it will not degrade; it will not disappear.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to be using recycled cardboard printed with vegetable inks? Recycled cardboard that could be broken up and put into home composters or used for planting seedlings?

I’m not the first to be annoyed by this.

Loblaws President’s Choice ‘Free Run Eggs’ are packaged in clear cartons […] [W]hy can’t Loblaws use paper cartons?

-Franke James, My Green Conscience, The Chicken and the Trash dilemma, June 2007

In February 2006, President’s Choice received Treehuggers “Waste of Packaging Finalist Award”:

Noam Ross’ entry shows that sometimes making things “better” can make them worse. […] According to Noam, “An extra flap on the carton adds more than 50% to the packaging. The use of plastic is more energy-intensive than traditional egg carton materials, and requires the addition of a paper label. Since the package is a mix of paper and plastic, it is unlikely that both will end up being recycled.”

-Sean Fisher, Tree Hugger, “Waste of Packaging” Finalist: Plastic Egg Carton, February 2006

So, since at least 2006, President’s Choice has been receiving complaints about their packaging. And has done nothing about it. At least that’s what I’m gathering after googling President’s Choice free-run eggs. Any photos I saw look just like the photos I took today of the PC plastic egg carton that has “patent pending” stamped on the bottom.

The other thing that makes me unhappy is the knowledge that judging from the relatively low price for the free-run eggs (in comparison to other free-run eggs) and the following, it is highly likely that the hens that lay these eggs are overcrowded.

free-run eggs come from hens who are kept indoors in large barns. They have no access to the outdoors and may or may not have litter in which to scratch and dust-bathe. They may or may not be overcrowded. […]

excerpt from chickenout.ca: Cage-free definitions

eggs Yes, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the free-running hens that laid the eggs placed in this shining glitzy egg carton (with the glowing words “These Canada Grade A eggs are exlusively from free-run hens. These hens live in an open concept, weather-sheltered barn environment, where they are free to roam, feed, roost, nest and perch.“) are jammed into a barn-like structure that has a roof and little else.

What is missing from the blurb is the assurance that these hens are not overcrowded. Nor does it mention exactly what these hens have been eating and whether the poor creatures have to be fed antibiotics, nor does it mention whether the hens have been debeaked or declawed or whatever unfeeling employees do to too many hens housed in a humungous barn.

Suddenly, I’m decidedly unhappy. I feel duped. And back to searching for real eggs that don’t cost an arm and a leg (or a wing).

So I wrote a letter to the company. Maybe you’d like to write one too.


Rats!! Until now, I was looking forward to having a spinach omelette.

This entry was posted in food & drink, whine on by .

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2 responses to “what’s with the plastic egg carton?!

  1. James Williams

    Great article and we could not agree more about the plastic packaging.

    We are a U.K based carton printer (curtis) and we passionately believe that cartonboard is the only true sustainable resource on the planet. What we do then is make sure we take this amazing natural and sustainable resource and treat with care during our manufacturing processes. i.e vegetable based ink and water based coatings.

    The only thing I would say is not to get too hung up about recycled cartonboard, whilst it has it’s place it should not be at the expense of virgin fibre cartonboard which also has an extremely good environmental strory behind it.

    The forest in europe are growing at a rate of 3:1 and this can only happen if the old trees are harvested for timber and paper/board.

    Note the term harvested rather than cutting down. This is how people need to think about trees being used for industry. Lets hope Presidents Choice see the light!

    Let hope

  2. Jeanne

    WTF?! Hard to believe that in this day and age a company wants to package like this. What were they thinking? And yes – some of the terminology is deeply misleading – very annoying when you think you are buying something virtuous which turns out to be merely overpriced!


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