Premier Foods has defended its switch to using barn eggs for the manufacture of Mr Kipling cakes after it came under fire from free-range charity the British Hen Welfare Trust.

The supplier switched from free-range to barn eggs in March and April in a bid to cut manufacturing costs and “continue providing good value for money for our customers” - a move that was described as “disappointing” this week by the BHWT, particularly given previous Mr Kipling on-pack claims promoting the sole use of free-range eggs.

The charity has since launched a social media campaign urging Premier Foods to change back to free-range eggs, and accused it of “trying to sneak [the change of egg supply] under the radar”. 

However, a Premier Foods spokesman told The Grocer this week it removed claims about free-range eggs from packs last year, and its egg sourcing remained “consistent with our commitment to Compassion in World Farming to use only cage-free eggs”. It also continued to maintain welfare standards above its competitors, the spokesman added.

“All of the egg ingredients we buy are certified to meet the barn egg standards set by the Association for Controlled Alternative Animal Husbandry, one of the leading European certification bodies for alternative hen rearing systems,” he said.

Among a range of standards imposed on its egg suppliers were a requirement to ensure hens were able to use the entire henhouse at all times and for a third of the henhouse to be available as a scratching area, in addition to having a perch area big enough for all hens to be able to perch at the same time and a ban on beak trimming.

“We understand and accept that those who would prefer to use free-range eggs may disagree with our decision. However, it’s important that we remain competitive in the market,” added the spokesman.