Egg producers looking to invest in barn systems of production, ahead of the move to “cage-free only” supplies by major retailers by 2025, have a new set of standards to adhere to.
The “barn standard” under the British Lion code of practice has just been agreed by the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), in consultation with welfare group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and Tesco.
The new guidance is intended to help producers that are preparing to tear out old enriched cages and install new multi-tier systems for their birds to perch, feed, drink and lay on.
It includes a maximum stocking density of 16.5 birds/sq m on the floor of the barn, a condition of two “enrichments” per 1,000 birds, plus a requirement for superior nest boxes.
The new standards will apply to all converted and newly built barn units with immediate effect, with a derogation for existing units until 31 December 2025.
They also prohibit the use of so-called combi systems, which enable cages to open up to convert into aviary-type systems, from 1 November 2019.
Barn system guidance
Producers have wanted clear guidance on the type of barn system to invest in for some time, following the announcement by major retailers and some wholesalers that they will sell only “cage-free” eggs after 2025.
The 16.5 birds/sq m floor space is more than the 15 birds/sq m allowed in multi-tier free-range units, but less than the stocking rates found in barn systems in the rest of Europe.
BEIC chairman Andrew Joret said it was a plus to have involved CIWF in the process, to create a mutually agreed standard for Lion barn eggs.
“The standards we have agreed are much higher than those being used across Europe and around the world.
“This will give consumers and the industry reassurance that animal welfare is a top priority within the rigorous British Lion scheme that produces the safest eggs in the world.”
Tracey Jones, CIWF director of food business, expressed her support for the new barn standard.
“The new standard will not only deliver better welfare for hens, but will help create a level playing field for those far-sighted producers converting out of cages before the 2025 deadline.”
Both the BEIC and CIWF are working to ensure that the new standard is also adopted for barn eggs going for processing and the food service sector.