Food retailers pledge support for UK egg producers in light of new welfare standards
Major food retailers are pledging their support for UK egg producers and are working to reassure customers that no eggs from Europe which fail to meet new welfare standards will be on their shelves or in their own-brand products.
A report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has indicated that some European egg producers will fail to meet improved welfare standards for caged hens which come into effect on 1 January 2012. In preparation for the new standards coming into effect, major food retailers who are members of the British Retail Consortium have been carrying out detailed checks on their own supply chains so they can give British consumers a guarantee about the eggs they sell or use as ingredients.
The BRC said that virtually all boxed eggs sold in UK supermarkets are from the UK and a large proportion are free range. Retailers have also been checking the sources of all the liquid and powdered egg used in own-brand products, such as cakes and ready meals, to ensure they meet the appropriate standards.
British Retail Consortium food director, Andrew Opie, said: "UK egg producers have worked hard to meet high welfare standards ahead of parts of Europe and our retailers support them by buying as many of their shell eggs as they can and labelling them clearly as British. Shoppers already buy a high proportion of free-range eggs, meaning changes to the conditions caged hens are kept in will have less of an impact here than in some other countries.
"Retailers won't compromise on welfare standards when it comes to the eggs on their shelves or in their own-brand products. We are pleased to be able to offer shoppers and British egg producers a guarantee that lower welfare eggs will not be bought by UK supermarkets or used as ingredients in their own products. Retailers are demonstrating their support for UK egg producers. The challenge is for all other parts of the food sector to do likewise."
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: "We are pressing hard in Europe to ensure that the 2012 deadline is met by all Member States. We have told the Commission that there must be no derogation for those who have not converted. Our producers who have made the investment must not be undermined by those who have not. I'm really pleased that the British Retail Consortium and major retailers have acted responsibly to ensure that their cakes and ready meals are only produced with eggs complying with the new regulations."
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