Egg producers need clarity over retailer cage-free promises – NFU

Retailers who have said they will stop selling eggs from hens kept in enriched cage systems by 2025 must give their egg suppliers more clarity on timelines and – importantly – what will replace the current production system, the NFU said today.

Currently 40% of shoppers buy eggs from enriched cage systems. The NFU believes the decision, made by Aldi, Tesco, Iceland, Morrisons and Sodexo, to look for alternative production systems will force the egg industry into its biggest change since the introduction of the enriched cage system in 2012; a move which then cost farmers in excess of £400m.

NFU poultry board chairman Duncan Priestner warned that this decision would not just impact on those using enriched cages but would have a knock-on effect on the entire egg sector.

“This change will impact greatly across all egg production systems so it is absolutely imperative that we and our members have clarity over retailers’ future plans and have our concerns addressed as soon as possible,” said Mr Priestner.

“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 £895m.

“We have built good relations with the retailers – UK agriculture’s biggest customer – and will be looking to those relationships to secure much needed clarification and certainty for our members.

“UK retailers have a very good track record on sourcing UK egg and we look to that commitment continuing.”

Specifically, the NFU has identified the following concerns:

· Planning: Producers need more details to be able to effectively plan and make the necessary changes to their businesses in the remaining nine-year timeframe up until 2025;

· Investment: As a result of the decision to go cage-free a significant number of the 15-million birds housed in enriched cage systems will need housing in alternative production systems such as barn and free range. This inevitably will involve significant investment by farmers as additional housing will be required. This will take time, with planning permission and other factors such as financing factored in;

· Clarity: what are the alternative production systems, how will the transition to cage free be implemented and over what timeframe.

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