February 6, 2012
Twenty years ago free-range eggs were rarely bought but for the first time this year they will outsell those from caged birds, according to industry estimates.
Of the 9 billion eggs laid in the UK in 2012, 49 per cent will come from free-range hens allowed to roam outdoors, compared with 48 per cent from hens cooped up in cages. A further 3 per cent come from “barn” hens that wander around indoor sheds, according to the British Egg Industry Council.
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 barren 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 using battery cages 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.