• Will battery hens soon be a thing of the past?

    7th February 2012 | News | Claire
  • Twenty years ago free-range eggs were rarely sold. 

    I remember walking to the shops with my nan when I was about eight.  I was telling her about the awful life that battery hens lived.  She replied.  “Well that’s life dear.”  I remember saying:  “But nan it doesn’t have to be!” 

    I should add that my nan was really a very nice lady and I know she was not alone in accepting that this was just the way things were. 

    But when I read the story yesterday about free-range eggs finally outselling battery eggs, it gave me a huge lift. 

    The Independent reports that animal welfare groups say there has been a quiet revolution in shopping habits since 1995 when 86 per cent of British eggs came from battery cages.

    Although battery cages were banned by the European Union on 1 January, their replacement – ‘enriched’ cages, contain perches and litter for pecking and scratching, but give each hen only 750cm squared – little more than a sheet of A4 paper.

    Some farmers are thought to have left the business in recent months rather than invest in ‘enriched’ cages, further tilting the balance in favour of free-range.

    Several retailers such as Watrose, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer will not stock any eggs from caged birds, but other supermarkets such as Tesco and Morrisons, will sell eggs from enriched cages.

    The RSPCA says the rise of free-range sales shows shoppers are prepared to pay more to ensure good animal welfare.

    A survey for Countryfile, aired last Sunday, also found that sales of ethically produced goods are on the up, despite the recession.