The government was criticised today for condemning millions of chickens to miserable lives by failing to require high standards of animal welfare for food served in schools, hospitals and care homes.
Government research shows that almost all eggs purchased by public sector institutions are from caged hens. The research concludes that 'at best' less than 10% of eggs bought by government were from non-caged sources, such as barn, free range and organic eggs . In comparison, almost half of the eggs sold in supermarkets are free range , showing that Government purchasing is out of touch with public opinion.
Chris Mullin, MP for Sunderland South, is today holding a Westminster Hall Debate to call on Government to require the use of non-caged eggs in catering for schools, hospitals, care homes and other public sector institutions. He will call for legislation that will prohibit the purchase of caged eggs in the public sector and require purchase of free range eggs.
Chris Mullin MP said: “It is important that government leads by example to support animal welfare. Prohibiting public sector organisations from buying cage eggs would make a huge difference to the welfare of millions of hens. Government has a responsibility to use public money wisely to support ethical food choices.”
Adrian Potter, Director of Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs, said: “This is good news in terms of raising the profile of British free range egg farming, an industry where the welfare of the birds is of paramount importance. Government buying free range eggs in bulk will demonstrate clear support for the British free range industry a sector where farmers are trying to do the right thing.”
Alex Jackson, coordinator of the Good Food for Our Money campaign  said: “Caged hens live in horrendous conditions – in cramped, stacked cages with sloping mesh floors. Each hen has a living space that is less than the size of an A4 piece of paper. We believe taxpayers' money should not be used to perpetuate such appalling production methods.”
The European Commission will outlaw the production of caged eggs in EU member states by 2012 . The UK government, however, has so far said only that it will “consider” banning cage eggs from public sector organisations in 2011, but has failed to make this compulsory. Unless animal welfare procurement rules are introduced, this is likely to result in public sector food buyers switching to buying their eggs from overseas, and failing to support British and European producers who have met the higher welfare standards.
Paul Winter, Head of Hotel Services at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Trust has made the decision to buy free range eggs because it's good for the hens that lay the eggs, the patients who will benefit from better tasting eggs and for my staff who have something to feel proud of. The government must make it mandatory for all public sector organisations to ban caged eggs. It is an obvious thing to do”.
For more information, please contact Alex Jackson or Richard Watts on 0203 5596 777 (Sustain office) or 07710 782719 (mobile).
Notes to editor:
- Research compiled by Sustain. The figure quoted in this press release are based on Compassion in World Farming's 'Good Egg Award' project, where 40 local authorities have declared themselves 'cage free' from a total of 468 local authorities in the UK. This does not include hospitals, which have responsibility for their own food procurement.
- TNS data of the retail egg market to March 09 shows cage free eggs at 47% of the market and growing at 12%.
- The Good Food for Our Money campaign aims to achieve legislation that will introduce mandatory health and sustainability standards for food in the public sector. The campaign believes that the public sector has a responsibility to purchase healthy and sustainable produce, not least because this food is bought with taxpayers' money. This money must be spent on food which supports people's health and wellbeing, promotes fair trade, supports ethical production methods and protects the environment. Only by introducing mandatory procurement standards can government achieve the necessary change, economies of scale and investment that are needed. For more information about the campaign see: www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney
The campaign is run by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. It represents around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level. Details of our work are at: www.sustainweb.org.
- The 1999 EU Laying Hens Directive bans battery cages from 2012. See the Compassion in World Farming website: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/
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Published 3 Nov 2009
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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