Hens lay more than 500 eggs/year and broilers take more than four months to reach slaughterweight, according to high street shoppers surveyed by Poultry World.

The straw poll also revealed more than half of consumers don’t know the egg and poultrymeat industries are separate, nor that free-range birds are more susceptible to disease than caged birds.

In total, Poultry World, sister magazine to Farmers Weekly, asked 11 questions to 70 shoppers. Almost 80% of respondents were unaware laying hens had their beaks trimmed, the number one issue facing the sector. One suggested it could be to stop staff having their hands bitten as they collected eggs.

Just 11 consumers interviewed knew it took about six weeks for broilers to grow to 2kg slaughterweight, with nearly 40% saying it was more than six months.

A significant number also believed that birds kept in barns lived in near or perpetual darkness.

Phil Hudson, NFU head of food and farming, said the fundamental gaps in knowledge were a concern. “Some of the answers, I wouldn’t expect people to know. But that most were unaware that laying hens and meat chickens are different shows more needs to be done.

“Consumers need a basic grounding to make informed decisions about the food they eat and take part in the wider debate about food and farming.”

But Amanda Cryer, director of the British Egg Information Service, said its own research had suggested detailed knowledge of farming didn’t translate to increased egg consumption. “Many are put off by hearing about methods of production, as they don’t want to be reminded about the link between eggs and where they come from,” Ms Cryer said.