Britain’s leading supermarkets have promised to support UK egg producers, agreeing that no eggs from Europe which fail to meet new welfare standards will be stocked.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has released a report noting that some European egg producers will fail to meet improved welfare standards for caged hens which come into effect on January 1st 2012 under the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive.
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), many of its members have carried out detailed checks of their produce to ensure that eggs meet the necessary standards.
This includes ensuring that eggs used as ingredients in on-brand products are appropriately sourced.
Almost all boxed eggs found in UK supermarkets are from the UK and a large amount are also free range.
Those who have pledged to support the move include ‘the big four’ supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.
Andrew Opie, British Retail Consortium Food Director, praised UK retailers for leading the way with high standards, adding that a majority of shoppers buy free-range eggs.
“We are pleased to be able to offer shoppers and British egg producers a guarantee that lower welfare eggs will not be bought by UK supermarkets or used as ingredients in their own products,” he commented.
“Retailers are demonstrating their support for UK egg producers. The challenge is for all other parts of the food sector to do likewise.”
The BRC has emphasised the importance of adhering to the 2012 deadline set out by the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive, which aims to ban the use of conventional cages for laying hens.
Enriched cages, increasing the space and facilities for hens, will be allowed.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice explained the level of commitment from producers to improve the animals’ standard of living.
“We are pressing hard in Europe to ensure that the 2012 deadline is met by all member states,” he said.
“We have told the commission that there must be no derogation for those who have not converted.
“Our producers who have made the investment must not be undermined by those who have not.
“I’m really pleased that the BRC and major retailers have acted responsibly to ensure that their cakes and ready meals are only produced with eggs complying with the new regulations.”