Scotland gears up to ban all cages in egg production

A possible ban on colony cage egg production in Scotland will put extra pressure on free-range supplies and result in imports from countries with lower welfare standards, the egg industry warns.

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on outlawing colony cages – also known as “enriched cages”, which replaced old barren cages in 2012 – referencing a “demand from society to move to more ethical production systems”.

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It sets out three options, though its “preferred” option would see a ban on building new enriched cages by 2030, and a ban on all cage-egg production by 2034 – in 10 years’ time.

It also proposes a total ban on barren cages, which are still allowed for pullets, breeding birds and egg laying flocks of less than 350 birds.

Figures show there are currently about 1.13 million egg-laying hens in cage systems in Scotland, representing about 17.5% of total supply.

This is slightly lower than the UK average.

Enriched environments offer more room for birds to nest, roost, scratch and rest than battery cages.

However, the Scottish government points to a UK survey in 2020 when 77% of people questioned supported a complete ban on the use of cages in farming.


Chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council Gary Ford said the organisation had “serious concerns” about the proposed ban.

He urged the government to allow consumers a choice of buying eggs laid in different production systems – especially given the cost-of-living crisis.

“Unless Scotland is planning to close its borders, it is likely that, in the event of a cage ban, retailers and food service operators will resort to importing caged eggs from outside of the UK, potentially with significantly lower welfare standards,’’ said Mr Ford.

“With a substantial proportion of the UK’s eggs produced in Scotland, a ban could lead to job losses and a direct impact on its economy, as well as reducing the number of eggs in the market putting additional pressure on free-range supply.”

First ban

If Scotland does introduce a ban, it would be the first UK nation to do so, although major supermarkets have pledged to stop selling eggs produced in enriched cages by 2025.

Luxembourg and Austria have already banned cages, and other European countries are phasing them out.

Defra has confirmed it has no similar plans for a ban on enriched colony cages in England.

A ban in Scotland could also apply to gamebirds, quail egg production and to the meat sector as the Scottish government is planning to consult on these too.

The current consultation will close on 25 June 2024.

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