NFU Half-Happy with Minister's Welfare Commitment

UK - The National Farmer's Union (NFU) has welcomed the Agriculture Minister's commitment over imports of eggs from battery cages from 2012 but urged re-consideration of the broiler stocking density rule that would put the country at a disadvantage to other EU member states.
calendar icon 10 November 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Jim Paice's commitment to support the egg industry was a positive step, the NFU has said, although it came on the day it was revealed that UK broiler producers will face tougher welfare criteria than European rivals.

Speaking at the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference in Warwickshire on 8 November, the farming minister backed egg producers on European legislation but went on to deal a blow to broiler producers with new rules on meat chicken welfare.

Mr Paice confirmed he had written to the European Commission seeking a ban on eggs from conventional cages being traded between member states after 1 January 2012 – a move which will be welcomed by UK producers who are already investing in enriched colony systems in line with the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive.

NFU poultry board chairman, Charles Bourns said: "We welcome the Minister's pledge and efforts to protect the investment of egg producers in the UK who are converting to enrich colony units, in line with EU legislation on 1 January 2012.

"It is clear that fair trade in the single market will be complicated by the estimated 100 million-plus birds that could still be reared in conventional cages in other EU member states after the ban comes into effect. We urge Commission officials to address this potential disparity as soon as possible."

The Minister's support on eggs came on the same day that it was revealed that the UK interpretation of EU legislation for meat chicken welfare will be stricter than other EU member states.

The NFU believes the legislation laid before Parliament, including maximum stocking densities of 39kg per square metre in England, (as well as Wales and Scotland under devolved powers), will put farmers in Great Britain at a competitive disadvantage and threaten the industry.

Mr Bourns added: "This is clear and simple gold plating by our government and it will be damaging to the UK industry. Approximately 55 per cent of chicken imports into the UK come from Holland and Poland where producers have had to come down to 42kg per square metre, their new legal limit. This means that NFU members will not be able to compete with this chicken being imported into our market."

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