Chicken & Egg Issue 14 - page 8

Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
Free range expansion seemed to explode
in the UK as a domino effect took place
in supermarkets this summer, but whilst it
appears that a switch to a ‘cage-free’ policy
has been happening suddenly, in fact over
many years interested parties in the UK have
played a role in improving welfare for laying
hens. Private assurance schemes (such as
Freedom Foods), scientists (who research
the minutiae of what makes a hen tick),
charities (such as ourselves, the RSPCA and
CIWF), celebrities (Jamie Oliver and Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall), individuals (such as
Lucy Gavaghan), the egg industry
itself (who also commission welfare
research) and most importantly consumers
who continue to vote for welfare with their
purses, have all had a positive impact.
Firstly, America. The USA has over 300
million laying hens, 15 million of which are in
California. Following successful campaigning
by animal welfare groups, a ban on the
confinement of farm animals, namely veal
calves, sows and battery hens, came into
effect from 1 January, 2015. Farming
Californian-style now means more freedoms
for farm animals, with laying hens being the
main beneficiaries. As a result of this ballot it
is anticipated over half America’s laying flock
will be ‘cage-free’ by 2025.
This massive shift in welfare led to house-
hold brands and retailers re-thinking their
strategy. Corporates including Walmart,
Subway, Costco, Burger King, Nestle, Heinz,
Starbucks and Sodexo (one of the biggest
multi-nationals in the world offering food
service to clients in 89 countries) made a
promise to source ‘cage-free’ eggs by 2025.
This ‘cage-free’ movement will spread
globally, affecting laying hens almost
Australia has also undergone a similar
overhaul of its egg production systems
with free range increasing in popularity.
Interestingly debate in Australia continues
on what constitutes a free range hen and
in March this year successful prosecutions
were brought against egg producers where
free range hens rarely saw the outside.
Looking at the good eggs out there,
Switzerland was the front runner by a mile,
banning caged production in 1992. Austria
will ban eggs from caged hens in 2020 and
Belgium in 2024.
Sadly the above trends are reversed in
China. Rapid intensification of egg
production since the mid 1980s has led to
China becoming the largest producer in the
world with a staggering 39.4% of global egg
production. In comparison, the USA lays
claim to a mere 7.6%. Being a laying hen in
China means living in a battery cage.
A Free Range
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