NFU pushes animal welfare

As the number of farms that continue to produce eggs from battery hens is dwindling, the National Farmers Union is urging both restaurants and food companies to start sourcing their products with more concern for animal welfare. The NFU has issued a handy guide for consumers, listing those businesses involved in the food industry which had already promised to stop using eggs from battery hens; the production of which is now banned in the EU.

Defra, the government’s department for agriculture, is backing the NFU’s call that firms which use eggs in food production make an effort to ensure they are sourced from farms which have higher standards of animal welfare. This does not necessarily mean that businesses have to pay extra for free range eggs, as farms which use improved cage systems also come under the list of approved suppliers.

A number of major food manufacturers have already put their name to the NFU campaign, including United Biscuits, which makes McVitie’s  and other top brands, as well as the firm behind the popular Mr Kipling cakes, Premier Foods. Supermarkets too have given their backing to the call, with Waitrose, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all agreeing to only use chicken-friendly eggs in their own brand products.

Poultry chairman at the NFU, Charles Bourns, welcomed the decision by so many major companies to commit to supporting not only higher standards in animal welfare, but also the British egg industry, He added that some of the biggest names in food manufacturing in the UK had yet to reply to their request or had insisted that their eggs were sourced carefully, without providing any details.

The EU ban on battery hens, which came into force at the start of the year, has cost the British egg industry over £400 million to implement the new standards, yet producers in more than 10 European countries are still using old systems.