Half of all UK eggs from cage-free hens, reports Defra

For the first time 50% of UK eggs are now laid by cage free hens and more people than ever are choosing higher welfare eggs, according to Defra.

The department’s latest figures reveal 45% of eggs produced in the UK throughout 2010 were free-range and 5% were produced in barn systems.

This increased from 41% free-range and 4% cent barn in 2009, which shows more and more consumers are buying higher welfare products.

The RSPCA is calling for supermarkets, pubs, caterers and restaurants to respond to customer demand and put higher welfare products on their menus and shelves – and to enter the RSPCA Good Business Awards, which reward companies for their contribution to animal welfare.

Around two thirds of all eggs used in restaurants, pubs and cafes – whether whole or in liquid form in quiches and cakes – continue to be sourced from hens kept in battery cages.

About 17m hens are still kept in cages with less useable space each than the size of a piece of A4 paper. They are unable to move around freely, move away from each other easily or to express natural behaviours properly, such as foraging and dust bathing.

RSPCA senior farm animal scientist Alice Clark said: “The RSPCA believes all hens should be kept in properly managed free-range or barn systems. We are encouraging everyone in the food retail sector to use welfare-friendly eggs, introduce or improve animal welfare policies and to enter the food category of the RSPCA Good Business Awards.”

Last year, retailers including The Co-operative, Sainsbury’s and Abel & Cole took home awards in recognition of their contribution to higher animal welfare standards.

Good Business Awards manager Jane Aslett said: “Over the last 10 years, animal welfare has remained a priority among consumers and spending on ethical goods and services has increased three-fold.

“By entering the RSPCA Good Business Awards, they have the perfect opportunity to receive public and industry recognition for their commitment to animal welfare.”

For more information about the awards or to enter, log onto www.rspcagoodbusinessawards.com.

To find out more about ethical food go to www.goodthings.org.uk.