“My advice is to shop around at your local grocer, market or small independent store to buy your eggs.”

Federal Agricultural Minister Murray Watt said Australians could be confident the eggs they are consuming are safe.

“The work that the Victorian government is doing to euthanise poultry on those farms means that there’s no risk of contaminated eggs getting into the system, the supply system,” he said.

“It’s also important to remember that the strain of avian flu that we see in Victoria is not the particularly deadly strain that we have seen in other countries around the world.”

Agriculture Victoria said while cases were possible among humans in direct contact with animals infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, the current risk to the public remained low.

“The spread of avian influenza from birds to people is rare but may occur with some strains of the virus if there is close contact with infected birds or their droppings, or with heavily contaminated environments,” it said.

Supermarket giant Coles has capped egg purchases to two cartons per customer per shop.

Supermarket giant Coles has capped egg purchases to two cartons per customer per shop.Credit: Shutterstock

An egg farmer from Victoria said free-range chickens were more likely to catch diseases from migratory birds as they’re exposed to the outdoors.

“The migratory birds, they’re the ones who bring in all the diseases. They’re virtually immune to it, but they carry it. The poor chook cops it,” said the farmer, who spoke under condition of anonymity.

Ninety-five per cent of the farmer’s chickens are free-range, all of which have been moved into barns and sheds at the direction of the Department of Agriculture.


Contrary to public perception, chickens are not unhappy in cages, the farmer said. “Cage [eggs] is what lays the most – [chickens] don’t die, they don’t get sick. It’s all round much better.

“Free range is good for Coles and Woolworths.”

Industry body Australian Eggs said while the culls would cause some disruption to egg supply as retailers reorganise their supply, purchase limits or patchy supermarket shelves did not indicate a nationwide shortage.

Managing director Rowan McMonnies said purchase limits could backfire. “If a retailer has been impacted by the avian influenza incidents then it might be necessary for them, but they can send the wrong message to consumers about broader egg supply,” he said.

NSW Farmers and retailers Costco and Metcash were contacted for comment.

Start the day with a summary of the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up for our Morning Edition newsletter.