17 July 2018 | Online since 2003

8 April 2016

Bill Broody April 2016

As the Chairman and Policy Director both hinted, in last months Ranger, campaigns that aim to protect the interests of one part of the sector, may end up harming the whole value chain. Recently, the news about eggs in consumer titles has been very encouraging – the consensus being that eggs are a safe and high value form of protein – potentially even helping to tackle childhood obesity. Long may this positive momentum continue.
Nothing is more likely to attract unwanted publicity than an industry fighting itself. So now is not the time to confuse the public about the subtleties of different housing systems, just as they are beginning to recognise the welfare advantages of the free range “brand” – and demonstrate a willingness to pay a premium.
Public recognition of the free range “brand” has not been achieved over night. Whilst the consumer may not fully understand the exact nature of the free rage regime they have absolutely no understanding of the terms “flat deck” and “multi tier”. Any attempt to dilute and complicate the free range message will almost definitely back fire. 
Similarly, the proposal to tackle egg fraud, which is in no way comparable to food scandals like the horsemeat affair, by forever linking brown eggs to free range, and white eggs to colony, is an overly simplistic solution and a major over reaction. There are many other ways to tackle the issue of mis selling and this is another example of creating unnecessary doubt and fear amongst the public. Selling colony eggs as free range is a clear case of fraud but represents no threat to public health.
Meanwhile, white birds have several well known advantages over brown birds and effectively limiting them to colony systems, for all time, would be a decision that the layer sector would almost surely regret. If anything the direction of travel towards a wider acceptance of white eggs is already established – the proposal to banish the most easily managed and productive breeds to the shrinking, lower margin end of the business is a retrograde step. The ‘law of unforeseen consequences’ would almost certainly kick in leaving the free range sector with no room to manoeuvre if circumstances led to a need to move to white birds. 
Consumers trust the free range brand – the sooner they can be educated that it is the housing system, feed regime and husbandry that matters and not the colour of the egg –the better it will be for all of us.