Today (1 November 2019) the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has introduced a new standard for UK barn egg production under the British Lion Quality Code of Practice.
Following the announcement by major retailers to sell only ‘cage-free’ eggs after 2025, the BEIC has worked closely with Compassion and other industry representatives to develop a new minimum standard for barn production, which was formally agreed by BEIC subscribers at a recent meeting.
It aims not only to deliver better welfare for laying hens but to create a level playing field for UK producers converting out of cages before the 2025 deadline.
Andrew Joret, Chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, said: “We are delighted to have had such a constructive dialogue with CIWF which has allowed us to create a mutually-agreed standard for Lion barn eggs moving forward.
“The standards that we have agreed are much higher than those being used across Europe and around the world. This will give consumers and the industry reassurance that animal welfare is a top priority within the rigorous British Lion scheme which produces the safest eggs in the world."
The new standard significantly improves on EU legislation and prohibits the use of Combi systems which are deemed too intensive. It includes measures such as: a maximum floor stocking density* of 16.5 birds per m2; at least two enrichments per 1,000 birds; a maximum colony size and superior nest boxes.
The new standards will apply for all newly built barn units with immediate effect, with a derogation for existing units until 31st December 2025.
Tracey Jones, Compassion’s Director of Food Business commented: “This is a huge step forward for laying hen welfare. Whilst we strongly advocate free range systems for laying hens we realise that for the value egg market barn may be a popular option, especially for producers converting out of caged production.
"The Lion standard provides an opportunity to deliver the welfare benefits expected from barn systems and food companies now need to get behind the Lion scheme as part of their cage free transitions, supporting producers with long term contracts and trading security. We also need government support for this new standard to ensure that any imports meet these new requirements for barn eggs, reducing the threat of lower welfare products undermining UK producers.
"We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the BEIC to ensure that the UK continues to invest in a better future for laying hens.”
The BEIC and Compassion are working together to ensure that the new standards are adopted not only for retail shell eggs, but also for egg products, including those used as ingredients, across retail, food service and food manufacturing.
* The KAT certification scheme in Germany limits stocking at the floor level to 18 birds/m2; there is no specified limit in EU legislation, where stocking density at the floor level can exceed 22 birds/m2
Monitoring cage-free progress
Find out more about the progress food companies are making towards meeting their 2025 cage-free egg commitments by reading our latest EggTrack Report here.