Retail Commitment Needed to New Welfare Rules

SCOTLAND, UK - NFU Scotland has called on the country's retailers to show greater commitment to Scottish eggs and chicken in light of the higher welfare standards being demonstrated and adopted by the nation's poultry producers.
calendar icon 11 November 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

Many Scottish egg producers have already gone to considerable lengths and additional cost to comply with new European legislation on welfare standards for laying hens due to come into force at the end of 2011 – something that several other member states have failed to do.

Those Scottish farmers producing chicken for the table are also required to meet new rules (published on 5 November 2010) on stocking density within their rearing houses. The majority of Scottish producers are already exceeding these gold-plated welfare standards brought in by the Scottish Government but want it recognised that their standards go well beyond what will be legally required in other Member States.

As supermarkets are the major buyers of Scottish eggs and poultry meat, the Union is writing to all major retailers urging them to recognise the higher standards being met in Scotland. NFUS is justifiably demanding a greater commitment to Scottish produce rather than possibly rewarding the poorer standards that may be set in other parts of Europe or elsewhere.

Speaking after yesterday's Poultry Working Group meeting, the Chairman, Robert Chapman, said: "Scottish egg producers have already invested considerable time, money and effort in ensuring they meet the European deadline of January 1, 2012 – after which time hens previously kept in conventional cages are required to be housed in new, enriched accommodation.

"While Scottish producers are up to speed in meeting this deadline, it is patently clear from reports that several other Member States are dragging their heels. It is perfectly reasonable to ask our retailers to honour their claims of supporting the nation's farmers by ensuring that all eggs that appear on their shelves, or as ingredients in the products they sell, are from Scottish or UK farms.

"In the interim, we fully welcome the involvement of Defra Farming Minister Jim Paice in writing to the European Commission seeking a ban on eggs from conventional cages being traded between Member States after the January 1 2012 date. This dovetails with NFUS work which, last month, saw us meet with EU officials specifically on this issue.

"For Scottish broiler producers, new Scottish legislation now requires chickens to be stocked at a density of no more than 39kg per square metre. While the reality is that most Scottish producers already meet and exceed this standard, the standard set by the Scottish Government gold-plates the EU requirement that is set at 42kg per square metre.

"Supermarkets must take notice and react positively to the improved UK standards and learn important lessons from what has happened before. The experience of the pig sector, which saw a unilateral ban on sow stalls introduced in the UK ahead of the rest of Europe had a huge impact on the pig industry. It imposed higher costs on home producers that went unrecognised by many supermarkets who opted to import product from less-welfare friendly systems elsewhere.

"Major retailers have an opportunity to stand by their claims of supporting our farmers and recognise that they have gone well beyond legal requirements in delivering better welfare to their birds. If supermarkets choose to undermine home product by importing eggs and chicken from systems that do not match those seen in the UK, as they did with pork, then the impact on Scottish farmers will be huge," said Mr Chapman.

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