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We have been working with Morrisons on their ‘Let’s Grow’ campaign for a few years now and Martyn Jones, Group Corporate Service Director kindly took some time out to talk to us about the campaign’s success and their free range egg policy. The article below was published in Issue 10 of Chicken & Egg in March 2015.

1. The British Hen Welfare Trust was delighted to partner with the Morrisons ‘Let’s Grow’ campaign, now in its seventh year. What inspired the campaign and what does it aim to achieve?

Let’s Grow began in response to a paper from the Department for Schools, Children and Families which criticised children’s knowledge about where their food came from. With our fresh food message we believed we were in prime position to educate children about growing food, and having an understanding about how it gets on to a supermarket shelf. Now in its 7th year, the Let’s Grow programme aims to help schools capture the imagination of the nation’s children by showing them where food comes from and inspiring them to grow their own fruit and vegetables in the school grounds.

2. Tell us about the Morrisons egg range. Roughly how many eggs does Morrisons sell per year and what % are free Range?

Typically we sell over 500m shell eggs in our stores, 58% of which are free range.

Yes, we’ve recently reviewed our own brand egg ranges and refreshed Nature’s Nest. We estimate that at least 2,000 acres of new woodland have been established under this initiative and over 2 million new trees planted since its implementation.

3. What are the constraints on converting to a 100% free range egg policy?

We have a large proportion of customers that really need to manage their food budget. While these customers may buy free range eggs when they can, they rely on the option to buy more competitive eggs when needed. This is why we believe it is important to clearly label our products so that our customers can easily make this choice.

4. Your website states that ‘All eggs used as an ingredient in Morrisons own brand products must be from hens housed in enriched cages as a minimum, and from free range systems wherever possible.’ This sounds like a bit of a catch-all – how are the decisions actually made?

We believe the weekly shop should be as affordable as possible. Selling eggs from caged hens in our own brand allows us to take greater control of the egg supply chain. This puts us in a better position to respond to customers on a budget while improving control of animal welfare. The reason for this statement was around a new EU law that came into force banning the old standards around caged eggs. The problem was that some egg producers across the EU had not changed systems while nearly all UK producers had. We needed to make sure that all eggs we use across the business were from enriched cages only. This way we could ensure that our customers have the confidence that all eggs are produced to these higher welfare standards and also to protect our farmers.

5. What more do you think the industry could do to encourage consumers on a tight budget to spend a little bit more for free range?

The industry already has done a great job on free range eggs. The UK has a very high proportion of free range compared to other countries. In fact, during the credit crunch, free range egg sales proved quiet resilient. I think consumers are generally aware of the difference between free range and enriched cage eggs however they should be free to choose.

6. Your Annual report states that ‘British sourced food remains a priority and we are working with suppliers to ‘Keep Britain Farming.’ Why is Britishness so important to the Morrisons consumer?

We take pride in the sourcing and production of the food we sell, buying British where possible. Being both a leading fresh food manufacturer as well as a major British retailer allows us to work with local farmers and suppliers to create shorter, more efficient supply chains. By sourcing British we can better control the quality and traceability of our products, reduce food miles, add to the national economy, strengthen agricultural industries and support our rural communities.

7. The British Hen Welfare Trust believes that consumers should be able to see the production method and provenance of eggs on all food labels so they can make informed welfare choices, and understands that Morrisons labels its food in this way. Do you think all retailers should follow suit?

Customers deserve to be able to make an informed choice when buying their weekly shop, wherever they choose to buy it.

8. We are interested to note that the Chief Executive, of Morrisons Dalton Philips, is the son of a County Wicklow egg farmer. Does this mean he shows a particular interest in your area of work?

Yes, Dalton is an avid reader of Farmers Weekly and shows a similar interest in farming as Sir Ken Morrison did before he retired to his beef farm.

9. What more do you think the British Hen Welfare Trust could do to promote free range eggs and support British egg farmers?

Continue to lobby food and lifestyle media to talk about the benefits of British eggs and the care that British egg farmers take of their flocks and end product.

10. And finally, I would love to know a little more about you and ask a couple of personal questions if I may? What is your favourite egg dish?

Eggs Benedict is my favourite when I am allowed it. Usually if on holiday in the USA.

12. Are you a hen-lover and would you ever consider keeping hens as pets?!

Hens are very therapeutic, and undervalued as pets. However, our lifestyle precludes us from keeping any pets which requires any more maintenance than a goldfish!

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