Chicken & Egg Issue 14 - page 11

'Cage-free’ does not mean free range, and corporate pledges to go
'cage-free' does not necessarily mean hens will enjoy natural daylight and
green grass under their feet. Whilst barn hens enjoy more freedoms than caged
hens, they do not venture outside at any time. Farmers now have to consider whether
to invest in barn systems, or switch fully to free range, and they will rigorously assess what
consumers want before making their decisions.
Farmers are intrinsically linked of course to their hens so it is important to consider their position
too. The average amount a farmer receives for six free range eggs is currently 48p; with
supermarkets always keen to lure consumers with promotional offers there is a danger that
pressure could increase on farmers. Iceland recently ran a promotion selling half a dozen eggs
nationally at 50p and it’s not difficult to see that these figures won’t stack up for long. We need
to ensure the health of the egg industry as well as the welfare of our beloved hens.
As a result of the downward pressure on the price of free range eggs, the egg industry is
exploring how it can meet consumer demand through multi-tier free range production,
whereby hens live in tiers but have access outside. Effectively more birds can be kept in
a single unit whilst maintaining welfare standards.
What will a british 'cage-free'
future mean to laying hens and welfare?
So, is this flight to ‘cage-free’
a good thing long term?
In short, yes, but with the caveat that
consumers need to be mindful of what
they are prepared to pay for free range
welfare. Continued pressure from
supermarkets on free range egg prices
will have a long term impact on farmers,
and if forced to cut corners, welfare could
be at risk.
Our advice to consumers is to question
promotional offers – someone or
some animal could be paying the price
for them. It won't be the supermarket.
Support those farmers who keep their
hens in small free range flocks.
Our recommendation to farmers is to
be crystal clear on labelling, differentiate
between small flock free range /
commodity free range / multi-tier free
range with honesty and clarity.
Consider the cage-free v free range
message; the public needs to be
confident their choice of egg is either
free range or barn produced.
We would encourage farmers to offer
better transparency, open farm doors
to the public, there are some
fantastic examples of good
living for hens which should
be the benchmark.
There is a potentially exciting sea
change taking place and the British
HenWelfare Trust will continue to
promote British egg farmers while
making sure we campaign for high
welfare for laying hens.
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Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
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