Farming minister Jim Paice is pushing for improved poultry welfare in the UK with two proposed new pieces of regulation.

The first new rule put before parliament this week sets out a legal maximum stocking density for poultry meat chickens of 39kg/m2. Although 90% of UK chicken production is already subject to a maximum density of 38kg/m2, under the Red Tractor Poultry Scheme, the regulation will be the first legal limit on all UK production.

The second rule proposes to remove the ban on routine beak trimming of laying hens, allowing producers to trim them as long as they use infra-red technology. It follows advice from the Farm Animal Welfare Council that the outright ban is putting welfare at risk.

The NFU said the new rules on stocking density would disadvantage UK producers because other EU countries allowed densities of up to 42kg/m2.