UK grocer helps egg farmers improve farmland for free-range hens

UK grocer Morrisons is helping free-range egg farmers create biodiverse farmland and giving them a greater share of retail profits.
calendar icon 1 December 2020
clock icon 5 minute read

For the first time, Morrisons is giving an extra 1p per egg back to farmers on every For Farmers medium egg sold - so that they can create more biodiverse farmland for their free-range chickens to roam around in.

The money raised from the sales of Morrisons For Farmers "Chuckle Eggs" will be ploughed back into establishing better free-range farmland to create a healthier environment for happier hens, who naturally tend to lay more eggs.

Morrisons became the first major supermarket to sell only free-range eggs in February 2020 . Free-range hens cost farmers significantly more to keep as they need large outdoor woodland and grassland areas in which to exercise, along with enriched nesting boxes and undercover areas.

Morrisons For Farmers contributions will help egg farmers to plant and manage woodland and wildflowers on their farms. Free-range hens should roam during daylight hours in fields planted with 20 percent trees. When outside, hens naturally use trees for roosting - which keeps them off the ground but under cover.

The extra investment may also be used by many farmers to create new or adapted buildings for their birds. Free-range hens require an indoor environment with more space and light, nest boxes with wide perches, and spaces for scratching and dust bathing.

Farms will also be encouraged to set aside land for wild bees and insects to increase their numbers, and in order that they can continue to pollinate the nation’s crops and flora. Morrisons agriculture team have helped to formulate a unique pollen and nectar rich flower mixture - to establish dedicated bumblebee and insect habitats. For every 16,000 birds they have, farmers have been asked to plant one acre of seed mix.

Sophie Throup, Head of Agriculture at Morrisons said: “Improving animal welfare and looking after our farmed and natural environment is important for us and our customers. By giving back to our egg farmers, they can create the highest welfare outside and indoor conditions for their hens. Planting woodland, pollen and nectar rich habitats will also bring huge and wider benefits to our countryside, and support sustainable food production into the future.”

Mark Williams, CEO at The British Egg Industry Council, said: “We applaud Morrisons for this move. We believe it is very important to encourage free-range hens to go outside and fully explore the range around the hen house. That’s why the British Lion Scheme actively encourages farmers to plant trees that give a natural canopy for the hens, helping the birds to feel protected, alongside activities that encourage the birds to come outside and enjoy the natural environment.”

A 12 pack of Morrisons For Farmers medium "Chuckle Eggs" are available in 491 Morrisons stores and online from this week costing £1.99. Twelve pence from every pack will go back to the farmers who produced the eggs.

All of Morrisons fresh eggs are free-range, sourced from 44 free-range egg farms country-wide. 1.5 million free-range birds will be laying medium eggs for Morrisons For Farmers "Chuckle Egg" range.

Morrisons launched its range of For Farmers products in October 2015, and became the first supermarket to give part of the retail price directly back to farmers. The range now includes milk, cream, cheese, butter and eggs. To date, the For Farmers range has given back £17m directly to British farmers.

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