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The Co-op has set up a dedicated egg farming group to strengthen relationships with farmers and provide clearer information to shoppers on its welfare and production commitments.

Noble Foods, the Co-op’s main egg supplier has helped to establish the Farming Group, which is made up of more than 250,000 hens from 17 flocks across northern England and Scotland.

The group will operate a bronze, silver and gold pillar scheme, which will provide increased premiums for farms demonstrating various aspects of farm business management, such as quality, welfare or environmental factors.

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The farms will be independently assessed to determine their pillar status.

The retailer has sold only free-range eggs since 2007 and from 2010 has used only free range in its own-brand products.

Catherine Bennett, Co-op’s poultry agricultural manager, said: “The egg farming group represents the Co-op’s sixth farming group within our fresh, British meat, poultry and dairy ranges.

“They’re proving hugely successful in providing our customers and members with greater confidence in the provenance of our food as well as benefiting the farmers involved.”