Monday, October 05, 2009

Exporting Eggs?

In the UK, demand for free range eggs has become so great that distributors are looking overseas for more eggs – and one has even asked us for stocks! As Freeranger Eggs only produce around 450 dozen eggs each week and we have a food miles policy which limits our distribution to within one hour of the farm, export is not something on our agenda.

Apart from that, I don't fancy driving to the airport every day with a van full of eggs to send off to the Poms!
It's an indication that demand is outstripping supply – but another more sinister indication is that the RSPCA and Compassion In World Farming have agreed to relax their definitions. RSPCA have allowed an increase in the stocking density for hens for their 'Freedom Food' brand (which is a big money spinner for them in UK) and will now permit an outdoor density of 2000 hens per hectare – double the previous level. For some reason CIWF has given its stamp of approval.

This is just another con by the RSPCA, similar to here where RSPCA accreditation allows hens to be debeaked in its accredited barn and 'free range' flocks. Most consumers have no idea that the RSPCA allows and even encourages de-beaking even though the Model Code of Practice specifies that the practice should be a 'last resort'.

In 2008, over half of the shell egg market, by value, in the UK was from free-range eggs. This increase in consumer demand for higher welfare eggs has lead to fears from the industry that this cannot be fully met by UK producers. It is believed that if British producers cannot meet the demand for eggs, then lower welfare eggs from overseas wll be imported to meet the deficiency. (In the EU there is an even higher stocking density of 2,500 birds per hectare)

Consumers here will need to be vocal if any signs start to emerge that Australian standards for free range eggs are to be watered down. The current stocking density limit in the Model Code is 1500 birds per hectare but the Free Range Farmers Association standard is 750 birds per hectare.

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