A new minimum standard for UK barn egg production has been introduced under the British Lion Quality Code of Practice.
The move follows announcements by a number of caterers and retailers to sell only cage-free eggs after 2025. Across Europe, 43 foodservice businesses, including most of the major players in the UK market, have made such a commitment, according to Compassion in World Farming’s tracker.
From November, any converted or newly built barns under the British Lion scheme will need to install aviary design systems that feature a raft of welfare improvements, including more space per bird and enrichments (for example, perches and pecking substrates such as straw bales or scattered grain), plus superior nest boxes. There is a derogation for existing units until the end of 2025.
The new standard “significantly improves” on EU legislation, said CIWF, and also prohibits the use of combination, or “combi” systems, which animal welfare campaigners claim are “too intensive”.
Indeed, a halfway house between the squish of the cages and the freedom to roam proved hard to pin down. “The race to find a solution has produced a mess,” noted Poultry Business earlier this year, highlighting disagreement over standards such as stocking density and enrichment for barn eggs.
CIWF director of food business Tracey Jones said the new standard “significantly improves on weak legislation that otherwise permits the use of high stocking densities and highly intensive systems such as combi systems”.
She added: “This is a huge step forward for the welfare of British hens and we urge the government to back this new standard to avoid any imported eggs from lower welfare systems undermining our UK producers.”