The British Egg Industry Council has refuted claims by a leading food manufacture that a combination of rising feed prices and EU legislation regarding battery production is likely to cause a shortage of eggs.
A shortage of such a fundamental raw ingredient would affect wholesale food suppliers, individual retail food suppliers and catering organisations alike.
Figures released by DEFRA in 2010 showed that two-thirds of eggs laid in the EU and around half of those laid in the UK in that year were from intensively farmed hens, with over 40% from free-range hens and around 5% from hens kept in barns.
European Union Council Directive 1999/74/E, intended to improve the welfare and conditions laying hens, which was introduced in January 2012, is now coming into effect, resulting in a dramatic fall in the number of battery eggs produced in the EU.
Although the number of free-range eggs has increased, the cost of feed is considerably higher as free-range hens are more active and need more and higher quality food. In addition, free-range eggs are not always laid in the most obvious of places, leading to a greater number of uncollected eggs in comparison with a battery system and thus a lower overall yield.
Some egg producers have found it difficult to maintain their hens with feed prices rising by 20% over the last year and would like to see an increase in the retail price of around 10p to 15p per half dozen eggs.