‘Combi’ barns banned in new higher British Lion welfare standards

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) paved the way for a new barn standard under the British Lion Quality Code of Practice, after a period of consultation with its subscribers.

Following the announcement by major retailers and some wholesalers to sell only ‘cage-free’ eggs after 2025, producers have wanted clear guidance on the type of barn system in which to invest.

The BEIC has worked closely with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and Tesco to develop a standard for UK barn egg production, capable of delivering higher levels of animal welfare, while providing a sound commercial opportunity for producers.

BEIC subscribers agreed to the new standard at a recent meeting.

The move comes well ahead of the retailers’ cage-free commitment deadline. It allows packers and producers to invest with confidence in good aviary designs as the new standard prohibits the use of highly intensive systems, such as the combination system, in a move that is fully supported by CIWF.

The investment in the new barn standard has been made possible by CIWF’s long-term support and enables producers to invest with confidence.

Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, said: “We are delighted to have had such a constructive dialogue with CIWF which has allowed us to create a mutually-agreed standard for Lion barn eggs moving forward.

The standards that we have agreed are much higher than those being used across Europe and around the world.

“This will give consumers and the industry reassurance that animal welfare is a top priority within the rigorous British Lion scheme which produces the safest eggs in the world.

“We hope it will also create the opportunity for constructive dialogue on other areas of mutual interest in the future.”

Dr. Tracey Jones, director of food business at Compassion in World Farming, said: “We’ve worked closely with the BEIC and are fully supportive of this new barn standard.

“It significantly improves on weak legislation that otherwise permits the use of high stocking densities and highly intensive systems such as Combi systems.

“The new standard will not only deliver better welfare for hens but will help create a level playing field for those far-sighted producers converting out of cages before the 2025 deadline.”

New standards

The new Lion standards include a raft of measures which are above those legally required, including:

  • A maximum floor stocking density of 16.5 birds/m²;
  • Two enrichments per 1,000 bird;
  • A maximum colony size; and
  • Superior nest boxes.

The new standards will apply for all converted and newly built barn units with immediate effect, with a derogation for existing units until December 31, 2025.

The British Lion Code of Practice will prohibit so-called ‘Combi’ systems from November 1, 2019.

Both BEIC and CIWF are working to ensure that the new standard is adopted for barn production for both retail shell eggs and egg products – including those used as ingredients, across retail, foodservice and food manufacturing.

Dr. Jones added: “The new barn standard is a huge step forward particularly for the value egg, and one that should not be undermined by lower welfare, lower quality imports that fail to meet these new minimum requirements.

“We look forward to working closely with BEIC to ensure that the UK egg industry continues to invest in a better future for laying hens.”