UK - Debt was highlighted as a key concern for the transition of farms to cage-free egg production, at a recent open meeting from the Ulster Farmers’ Union for Northern Ireland-based producers and packers of eggs produced by hens in enriched colony cages.
The meeting attracted over 50 producers, all keen to give their views on the decision by the major retailers to end sourcing of enriched colony eggs by 2025.
Some retailers such as Waitrose and M&S already sourced only eggs from hens not housed in cages, but the rest of the major retailers recently committed to ending the use of cages in their supply chains as a result of consumer pressure, stemming from a petition started by teenager Lucy Gavaghan.
The main concerns raised at the meeting surrounded current levels of debt in the sector. The UK poultry industry has only recently completed a £400 million upgrade from battery cages to enriched colony systems, after the smaller battery cages were banned across the EU in 2012.
Now with that investment already made, the UFU said they face uncertainty, due to lack of clarity from retailers on what production system they want in the future.
After the meeting, the UFU said it would discuss with the British Egg Information Council (BEIC) how to ensure this change is managed carefully. It will also seek further information from retailers, so that producers will have more clarity about what is happening.
The UFU will also be urging banks and government to ensure support is available to the sector as it deals with this major change of approach by retailers.ThePoultrySite News Desk