From New Year’s day 2012 naked, numberless egg will be a gift to any dodgy trader seeking to market illegal cage eggs on the UK market, according to East Midland MEP and UK Independence Party representative Stuart Agnew.
Adressing the recent East Midland poultry discussion group meeting at Marston, Lincolnshire, he said that, in theory, there could be 83m eggs a day to be destroyed in the EU because they were produced by an estimated 100m hens in illegal cages. That was the prospect, but the reality was more likely to be very different.
“A naked egg is a gift to a fraudster who can put what message he likes on the shell,” he said. It was vital that all eggs were stamped on the farm before they reached the “fraudster”.
Mr Agnew, who has his own 35,000-bird, free-range egg site in Norfolk, claimed that on the Continent the majority of producers had not complied with the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive and would be under little pressure to do so. Non-compliant producers would be fined, with estimates ranging from €1000 to €8000, but the illegally-housed hens would carry on producing and cage egg producers would still be in business.
“You may not believe it, but that is the way it works. A €7000 licence to keep birds in cages,” he said.
That was the more likely outcome than the suggested ban on the intra-community trade for cage eggs proposed by many in the egg industry. That idea was a complete non-starter and likely to fall foul of the World Trade Organisation, he suggested.
As a free-range producer, Mr Agnew said he was also concerned by the possibility that free-range egg flocks could eventually be fed genetically modified rations, which could present the sector with a classic dilemma. His customers were concerned with ethics and might be upset by any moves to include GM layer rations.
“But any major advances in agriculture over the 40 years that I have been in farming have come from big business,” he said. “They have invested heavily in the face of opposition of the green lobbies. They have been the ones to take us forward.”