Free-range eggs pushed through the 20% barrier this summer to account for 21% of UK packing station throughput. While Marks & Spencer remains the only retailer at present to stock exclusively free-range eggs, consumer demand for them is at an all-time high, according to Richard Kempsey, British Free Range Egg Marketing (BFREM) spokesman. "More than half British shoppers ­ 56% to be precise ­ usually buy free-range eggs. But just 2% of the eggs bought by the food industry are free-range," he said. The same research showed that one in six of those questioned thought that the eggs used in premium products, such as biscuits and readymade meals, were free-range. "Most decisions on egg sourcing are down to price, yet the extra cost of using free-range across all food industry sectors can work out at a fraction of a penny. It could be a valuable point of difference on premium lines." At present two major manufacturers are committed to using free-range for their brands: Dalepak and Linda McCartney branded frozen meals ­ which are part of the Heinz range. Existing mainstream users of free-range eggs are MacDonald's, which buys 80 million a year; Prêt à Manger and restaurant chain Pizza Express, which has been taking them for 36 years. The other good news from the NOP poll for free-range producers is that nearly all those polled also said that they would be prepared to pay the difference. {{PROVISIONS }}