NFU vow to “shine a light” on supermarkets and food manufacturers over higher welfare eggs

From the big four supermarkets to top high-street food chains and food manufacturers, the NFU will shine a light on those companies who have pledged to buy higher welfare eggs.

It has been confirmed that 14 EU countries, including Britain, have failed to comply with new legislation for laying hens, which came into force on January 1.

The NFU has voiced concerns over the threat that imported eggs produced in conventional cages pose to British egg producers. The major concern is that egg products are hidden within foods such as cakes, salad dressings and quiches.

The NFU and Defra have contacted food companies and retailers to find out exactly who is a 'good egg' and will stand by British eggs.

'This list certainly makes for interesting reading and shows how many companies are backing British egg producers and higher welfare standards,' said NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bourns.

'So far, the British Retail Consortium has said Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's have confirmed they will not source any products from conventional cages for their own brand products, as well as Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Iceland and The Co-op.'

However, it emerged yesterday that 30 poultry units in Britain were still keeping hens in illegal systems.

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Euro MP Stuart Agnew, who is also a Norfolk free-range producer and highlighted the battery cage issue, was seriously annoyed.

He argued that Defra's ministers really should have taken action to enforce compliance even though it represented a fraction of production.

Mr Bourns said: 'Nearly all UK egg producers were fully compliant before this legislation came into force and these figures represent around one per cent of all laying hens in this country.

'Our producers are committed to higher welfare standards, which means around 31m hens are housed in free range, barn and enriched cage systems.,' he added.