The new rules would allow packers and producers to ’invest in confidence’, said the BEIC

The British egg sector has agreed on a new set of standards for barn egg producers which it claims will be “much higher” than those used across Europe and the rest of the world.

The new standards have been developed by the British Egg Industry Council, in partnership with Tesco and Compassion in World Farming. It follows the effective banning of caged production systems over the past three years, after all the UK’s major supermarkets made commitments to sell only cage-free eggs from 2025.

The move would allow packers and producers to “invest with confidence in good aviary designs”, said the BEIC. It follows concerns from across the sector that the shift towards cage-free systems would heap further financial pressure on a sector still paying for the transition from battery systems in 2012 to so-called enriched cages.

Capable of delivering higher levels of animal welfare while also providing a sound commercial opportunity for producers, the standards are above those legally required, added the BEIC. They include a maximum floor stocking density of 16.5 birds per m2, two enrichments per 1,000 birds, a maximum colony size of 6,000 birds and superior nest boxes.

The new standards will apply for all converted and newly built barn units with immediate effect, with a derogation for existing units until 31 December 2025.

“We are delighted to have had such a constructive dialogue with CIWF, which has allowed us to create a mutually agreed standard for Lion barn eggs,” said BEIC chairman Andrew Joret.

“The standards that we have agreed are much higher than those being used across Europe and around the world,” he added. “This will give consumers and the industry reassurance that animal welfare is a top priority within the rigorous British Lion scheme, which produces the safest eggs in the world. 

“We hope it will also create the opportunity for constructive dialogue on other areas of mutual interest in the future.”

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”, said CIWF director of food business Tracey Jones.

“It will not only deliver better welfare for hens,‘’ but will help create a level playing field for those far-sighted producers converting out of cages before the 2025 deadline,” she added.