Consumers and poultry producers would benefit from the immediate introduction of a new egg classification, the UK Independence Party declared in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
At the moment there are three different categories; organic (0), free range (1), barn eggs (2) and cage (3).
A new classification would introduce a fourth category to allow consumers to differentiate between conventional- and enriched-cage eggs, ahead of the EU-wide ban on conventional cages in 2012.
This would cover eggs produced in countries which already have exemptions from the ban, namely Romania and Bulgaria.
Poland has also demanded a five-year extension to the deadline to 2017.
“UK egg producers who have invested very heavily in alternative systems will be expected to compete at a disadvantage against imported products which can be produced far more cheaply,” MEP Stuart Agnew said.
In its recent submission to the EU agriculture council Poland revealed it is unlikely to meet the 2012 deadline, with only 99 out of 591 farms converted to enriched cages.
The DEFRA representative, as well as the head of animal welfare at the EU Commission said there was no way Poland’s attempt to extend the deadline would succeed.
The UK egg industry is spending around £400m on converting its facilities, with 2.4m enriched cage places created from 1999-2008 and another 10m to be converted over the next two years.
Mr Agnew insisted egg products imported from areas exempt from the ban should be appropriately labelled and a fourth label should be immediately implemented.
For more on this story see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog