News / Good Food for Our Money Campaign

New government rules will confine thousands of hens to life in a cage

Good Food for Our Money campaign attacks government for introducing new rules for eggs bought by the public sector that will confine thousands of hens to life in a cage.

The Good Food for Our Money campaign [1] has criticised the Government for introducing archaic rules for eggs bought by public institutions after it published calculations which show that new ‘Government Buying Standards’ will condemn up to 107,000 hens to life in a cage each year [2].  

The Campaign - an alliance of over 60 national health and environmental groups including Compassion In World Farming, RSPCA and RSPB [3] - will today launch End Cage Cruelty to change Government Buying Standards so that all eggs are cage-free [4].

Government Buying Standards are compulsory for central government and agencies and promote the purchase of eggs reared from hens living in so-called ‘enriched’ cages. When the standards are introduced in September 2011, up to £3.2 million of taxpayers’ money will be spent on ‘enriched’ cage eggs each year [5].

This decision has angered campaigners because hens living in ‘enriched’ cages are confined to an area approximately the size of an A4 piece of paper and are restricted in many physical activities, including running, flying, and flapping their wings [6].

Public opposition to ‘enriched’ cages has been so intense that they have been banned by UK retailers including the Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencers, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose, as well as by fast food restaurant chain McDonalds [7]. In Europe, Austria, Germany, and Luxembourg are all committed to making ‘enriched’ cages illegal [8].

Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Good Food for Our Money campaign said: “These new rules for eggs bought by the public sector undermine the progress that has been made to improve the welfare of British hens over recent years. Not only will they condemn thousands of hens to a life of misery every year, they also encourage British farmers to adopt production methods that clearly have no commercial future because caged eggs have been rejected by retailers and other EU countries. The government must change Government Buying Standards and require public institutions to go ‘cage-free’’”.

For more information please contact Alex Jackson on Tel: 0203 5596 777 / Mobile: 07734 902909.

Notes to editors

[1] See the Good Food for Our Money campaign at: https://www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney/

[2] The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published Government Buying Standards (GBS) in June 2011. The standards require that 100% of “eggs in shell” are from “enriched cages” as a minimum standard. For more details, please go to: http://sd.defra.gov.uk/documents/GBS-guidance-food.pdf

GBS will be made compulsory for ‘central government’, which includes government departments, prisons and parts of the armed forces and will affect one-third of all public sector institutions.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published an ‘Impact Assessment’ for draft GBS proposals in December 2010. This document calculates that GBS will affect £3.2 million of eggs bought by central government each year. An individual caged egg costs approximately 0.10p. Therefore, £3.2 million will buy 32,000,000 caged eggs a year. A caged hen will lay approximately 300 eggs a year, thereby requiring approximately 107,000 caged hens to produce 32,000,000 caged eggs a year. A copy of the ‘Impact Assessment’ is available to journalists on request.

[3] See full list of supporters at: https://www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney/supporters/

[4] Good Food for Our Money campaign’s End Cage Cruelty: https://www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney/

[5] According to Defra’s ‘Impact Assessment’: see note [2] above.

[6] ‘Welfare issues for egg laying hens’, Compassion In World Farming, http://www.ciwf.org.uk/farm_animals/poultry/egg_laying_hens/welfare_issues.aspx

[7] A full list of organisations that have been given a ‘Good Egg’ award by Compassion In World Farming for going ‘cage-free’ is available at: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/good_egg_awards/english/winners/default.aspx

[8] Luxemburg has already banned the production of eggs from enriched cages (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmenvfru/writev/egg/egg.pdf), Germany has committed to prohibit enriched cages by 2012 (http://www.ciwf.org.uk/includes/documents/cm_docs/2008/e/enriched_cages_for_laying_hens.pdf), Austria will ban enriched cages from 2020 (Laying Hen Case Study: Austria http://www.ciwf.org.uk/includes/documents/cm_docs/2010/l/laying_hen_case_study_austria_ciwf.pdf).

Sheep farmer. Credit: Cottonbro | Pexels

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Published 4 Aug 2011

Good Food for Our Money Campaign: The Good Food for Our Money campaign ran from 2008 to 2011. After several notable successes, this campaign has now evolved to focus on winning healthy and sustainable food standards for hospital food, in parallel with Sustain's existing work on the Children's Food Campaign to secure healthy and sustainable food standards for school meals.

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