The Welfare of Laying Hens Directive - Implications for the egg industry - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by the Good Food for Our Money Campaign

1.  SUMMARY

The Good Food for Our Money campaign, run by Sustain, believes that the EU Council Directive 1999/74/EC: the welfare of laying hens will provide a welcome and much needed financial boost for the British egg industry. It will also satisfy British consumer opinion which has swung against conventional egg production. Our views are:

—  The Directive will reward British producers that have moved away from conventional cages.

—  The Directive reflects the opinion of British consumers who have moved away from buying conventional eggs and now buy more free range and organic eggs.

—  Defra must further support the British egg industry, and promote higher standards of animal welfare in egg production, by introducing compulsory standards for eggs purchased in the public sector.

—  It should be noted that the welfare of laying hens in enriched cage systems is still compromised (see note 5).

2.  ABOUT SUSTAIN: THE ALLIANCE FOR BETTER FOOD AND FARMING

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. We represent around 100 national public interest organisations (listed here http://www.sustainweb.org/membership/sustain_members_list/) working at international, national, regional and local level.

3.  THE GOOD FOOD FOR OUR MONEY CAMPAIGN

The Good Food for Our Money Campaign represents a coalition of organisations that are calling on government to introduce compulsory health, environmental and ethical standards for all public sector food. The coalition is comprised of 57 national organisations including the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the Royal Society for Public Health, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Compassion in World Farming, WWF UK, Marine Stewardship Council and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health. For more information about the campaign please go to: http://www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney/

4.  IMPLICATIONS OF THE DIRECTIVE FOR THE ENGLISH EGG PRODUCTION, FOOD PROCESSING AND MANUFACTURING SECTOR

The Good Food for Our Money Campaign believes that the Directive will have a positive effect on British egg production, food processing and manufacturing sector. The ban on the production of conventional battery eggs will provide a boost for the British egg industry by steering consumers in the UK and in the EU to British eggs and egg products that have moved to production systems beyond conventional cages in accordance with the Directive and, even further, to systems with higher standards of animal welfare e.g. free range. It should be noted that the NFU has calculated that producers in the UK have already spent £400 million to meet or exceed the specifications in the Directive.[1]

More widely, the consumer trend in the UK towards free-range and organic eggs has resulted in a strong supply base and supply chain for these products in this country. Market data from 2008 show that 47% of the UK egg market is for non-caged eggs, and that sales of free range eggs grew by 12% on the previous year - a trend that has continued.[2]

Concern about animal welfare standards in conventional caged systems has been largely responsible for the swing in British consumer opinion resoundingly against caged eggs. This is reflected in the fact that Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-op have already taken action and banned the sale of caged eggs from their stores.

5.  ENRICHED CAGE SYSTEMS

It should be noted that the welfare of laying hens in enriched cage systems is still compromised. Hens in enriched cages are still not fully free to dust bathe, peck or lay eggs in a natural way. A barn or free-range system is the only way to ensure hens can fully express their natural behaviour.

6.  DEFRA SUPPORT FOR THE EGG AND EGG PRODUCTS INDUSTRY

It is crucial that government leads by example by purchasing eggs in the public sector that promote animal welfare and support British farmers. To ensure this, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) must introduce a requirement that prohibits all public sector institutions from buying eggs that do not meet the standards in this Directive and requires them to instead buy more barn and free range eggs.

A Good Food for Our Money Campaign investigation in 2009 found that nine out of ten eggs purchased in the public sector are from caged hens.[3] This should be considered in the context that 63% of people in the UK would prefer their local council to use eggs from cage-free hens.[4]

February 2011



1   http://www.nfuonline.com/Your-sector/Poultry/News/Support-British--good-eggs-,-urges-Kendall/  Back

2   TNS figures produced for the British Egg Information Service. Back

3   The figure quoted is based on Compassion in World Farming's "Good Egg Award" project where, in 2009, 40 local authorities had declared themselves "cage free" from a total of 468 local authorities in the UK. This does not include hospitals, which have responsibility for their own food procurement. Back

4   YouGov poll, June 2010. Back


 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 2 September 2011