Free as a bird
HANKS to vigorous shopper demand, more retailers are pledging to stop selling eggs laid by caged hens and are promising to look for alternative production systems. Tesco, Iceland, Aldi, Morrisons and global food producer Sodexo have joined Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer in committing to phasing out production by caged hens from 2025. In the USA, chains such as Starbucks and Nestlé are following suit. Jane Howarth, founder of the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT), welcomes the announcement, having campaigned since 2005 for such changes—the north Devon-based charity has seen free-range egg production grow from 32% in 2004 to 52% in 2014. However, the NFU warns that this decision will spark a knock-on effect in the egg industry and encourages retailers to offer clear strategies and timelines so producers can budget accordingly. ‘Although 2025 is nine years away, time is of the essence to allow our producers to make the necessary changes, with minimal disruption to their businesses and to our customers—the British public—a market worth an estimated £895 million,’ says NFU poultry-board chairman Duncan Priestner.
The BHWT is holding the first British Hen Welfare Day on September 23, inviting people to host Free Range Friday with tea and cake to raise funds for its rehoming centre near South Molton (www.bhwt.org.uk). KB