Germany was expected to press the EU Commission for an EU-wide ban on beak trimming in line with its own voluntary agreement with laying-hen producers, the NFU has warned.
The agreement stated that, from January 2017, all chicks destined for the layer sector would not be trimmed at the hatchery.
But the NFU said the German government was acutely aware that its producers would face a competitive disadvantage to other EU producers as a result.
“The German government would be looking to Europe to harmonise standards in order to put themselves on a level playing field,” it suggested.
At present, layers in Germany have their beaks trimmed by infra-red laser at one-day old – the same method used in the UK and by most member states.
German producers were said to be concerned about the animal welfare implications as a result of the voluntary ban, claiming it could lead to higher on-farm mortality, poorer production efficiency, higher prices for consumers and ultimately poorer welfare for their animals.
Farmers were also concerned they would not be compensated for any potential impact on production, or for any adverse welfare outcomes for their birds.
Trials were taking place in Germany to see how good animal welfare conditions could be maintained without the need to beak trim, and an online advisory platform would be set up for producers.
Turkeys would continue to have their beaks trimmed, although a ban could come into force at the beginning of 2019, depending on the results of ongoing research.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the Beak Trimming Action Group was considering the report by Bristol University into trials on non-beak trimmed flocks conducted last year.
It is understood the report concluded that it is too soon to implement a beak trimming ban in 2016, though a final decision would be made by farm minister George Eustice in December.