No signs of egg imports breaking welfare rules

Although, the egg market is short and imports are coming in from Europe, Scottish producers were yesterday assured that all imported eggs appear to have come from accredited systems and not from hens kept in battery cages.

Charles Russell, senior poultry officer with the Scottish Government, told a conference in Perth that a great deal of monitoring was taking place and, working with officials in Europe, checks were being made on imported consignments.

“We have not seen anything illegal so far,” he stated, adding that egg markings on inspections revealed they had all come from enriched animal welfare production schemes.

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Since the European Union passed the regulation banning the sale of eggs from hens kept in battery cages on 1 January, the price of eggs has risen throughout Europe.

Conference organiser John Ralston, who runs his own supply business in the poultry industry, said it was almost akin to 50 years ago when the egg industry boomed after years in the doldrums. He predicted the current shortage and consequent high egg prices would continue for some time.

He also foresaw “mayhem” in Europe some three months from now when massive EU fines will be implemented on those countries still producing eggs under illegal conditions.

However, he was wary of producers becoming too carried away with the current higher prices as the market had traditionally weakened when hen numbers in the UK exceeded 31 million.

Richard Kempsey, of Stonegate Farms, which supplies organic eggs to Waitrose, said that over the past six months, the major supermarkets had dropped their egg prices by almost 50 per cent and he said it would be a challenge to get it back up again.

Kempsey was gloomy about the organic egg sector, which accounts for only 3 per cent of all sales in the UK. He did not believe they would see any growth in this sector for the two years.