Free-range eggs to dominate the UK market by 2025

Free-range eggs to dominate the UK market by 2025

Time is proving that it wasn’t an utopy: a world without cages is possible, at least for laying hens. Some of the largest supermarkets in the world have announced their commitment to stop selling eggs from caged hens and start selling free-range eggs exclusively.

Maybe due to a sudden and collective ethical awakening, or perhaps to not be left behind in a market that is increasingly opting for organic food products and concerned about animal welfare. The thing is that all these firms have expressed their sustainable intentions almost at once to come into force at once, too: by 2025.

America’s largest food retailer, Walmart, made it public in April, and the stream arrived at the UK a couple of months later. It was largely achieved by a 14-years-old activist, Lucy Gavaghan, who first challenged Tesco through a Change.org petition to stop selling eggs from caged hens. With Tesco convinced, Morrisons, AldiLidl, and Asda have joined this “just free-range eggs by 2025” wave within few days. Both French food provider Sodexo and Iceland announced its plan following the same line, while Compass Group has been the latest to embrace this cause in the retail industry.

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Main retail firms in the UK will only sell free-range eggs by 2025 – Photo by ElastiComputeFarm (CC)

This encouraging trend goes beyond supermarkets, and there are already many restaurants and fast food chains making the switch at global scale. This virtual map enabled by Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) is an original and easy way to find out which high street cafes and restaurants are already committed to the solely use of free-range eggs.

It must be said that there are some leading companies which adopted the ban on eggs from caged hens a while ago. Waitrose, The Co-operative and M&S have been pioneers implementing this meassure in retail in the UK, along with Sainsbury’s.

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The EU banned battery cages in 2012 – Photo by Janedo70 (CC)

The EU banned battery cages for laying hens in 2012, introducing some ‘improvements’ in their living conditions through the Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999. Although the EU set a transition period of 13 years for the member countries to take the steps needed, some of them such as Poland, France and Spain are still failing to comply with this directive. On the contrary, the UK has not only met the requirements stated by the EU, but has also gone far beyond them taking the lead in laying hens welfare.

There are many drawbacks we could mention here -the fact of being still 9 years away from 2025 target could be the main one-, but the fact that big firms traditionally uncaring have taken such decision responding to consumers demands it’s much appreciated, whatever the underlying reasons for it.

 

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During 2016, an avalanche of identical announcements are being made by retail companies: by 2025, they’ll only sell free-range eggs in their stores. In this way, Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, and Asda will join several firms such as Waitrose, The Co-operative, M&S, and Sainsbury’s that have already retired the eggs from caged hens from their shelves. This pledge is also spreading among restaurants and fast food chains, and not only in the UK, but also in countries like the US or France. Always with a target in common: 2025. Hopefully, it could become the ‘cages open year’.

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