The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) has called on government to target research, pilot schemes and grant funding towards improved hen welfare in its response to Defra’s Health and Harmony consultation.
A range of ideas have been put forward by the organisation to help shape the future of the free range laying sector.
All have animal welfare at their core but range from supporting training for producers and their staff to shed design and emission mitigation measures.
BFREPA’s chief executive Robert Gooch said: “Free range production is the UK’s leading farming system for eggs, accounting for more than half of total eggs produced.
“Our members want to continue to produce high welfare free range eggs that are affordable for consumers, and that brings with it some significant challenges.
“Our view is that government should help enhance this status by providing funds to research, pilot and train farmers in innovative new techniques which will continue to improve welfare without pricing free range eggs out of the reach of consumers or making them uncompetitive against imports.”
The free range egg sector does not receive direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy, and Mr Gooch added that the organisation wants to see this continue.
“The sector has grown in the past 30 years because of consumer demand and the free range egg sector would not like to see any form of new direct payment introduced when we leave the EU.
“Free range producers would like to continue to see their income derived from the marketplace.”
Instead, BFREPA has suggested that government co-finances an industry body, such as the Poultry Health and Welfare Group, to prioritise support strategies and actions surrounding notifiable diseases and improve animal health standards.
In addition, more funding should be provided to identify, diagnose and respond to notifiable diseases, such as avian influenza, Mr Gooch said.