Tesco weighing up challenge of cost for Scottish egg producers

Plans are underway at Tesco to convert its entire UK egg supply to barn and free-range as the supermarket giant acts on promises to ensure higher welfare standards.

In 2016, Tesco made the commitment that it would stop selling caged eggs by 2025.

The retailer sells around 1.4 billion eggs a year in the UK and is one of the country’s largest sellers of free-range eggs.

However, the supermarket has the challenge of continuing to deliver a lower cost ‘value egg’ product for customers who continue to want this option.

NFU Scotland met with representatives from the Campbell family of Glenrath Farms and Tesco on Thursday, May 9 to identify how this can be achieved in a long-term, sustainable manner.

The family are converting the farm’s Millennium site, near Peebles, from colony production units into an impressive barn system.

Tesco sees barn egg production as the way to fulfil its commitment to cage-free and have been working closely with the egg industry, NFU Scotland, academics and welfare organisations, to develop new welfare standards that meet customer expectations whilst allowing producers to utilise existing assets from recent investments into colony units, which were made ahead of the 2012 ban on battery cages.

Following the meeting, NFU Scotland Pigs and Poultry policy manager Penny Middleton said: “We welcomed this opportunity to speak to Tesco about their plans to meet their cage-free commitment and a number of other issues affecting the poultry sector.

It is vital for producers to have confidence in the future of egg production and for this, they need clear guidance from retailers and commitment to long term support for their investments.

“Movement away from existing colony production provides some real challenges for the future in meeting the demand for eggs.

“With issues like planning permission, environmental requirements and land availability, restricting expansion into more free range, there needs to be more balance of priorities.

“We must look at ways to utilise the existing infrastructure and investments made by our producers and it is reassuring that Tesco is working closely with its suppliers – like the Campbells – and recognising the importance of long-term commitment for their investment.”

John Kirkpatrick, agricultural manager for poultry and eggs at Tesco, said: “We are working with our farming supply base and egg packers to continue to support them to produce healthy, affordable, sustainable eggs and deliver for our customers on a day to day basis.

“We’ve worked with our supply base via our Tesco Sustainable Farming Group for Eggs and key industry stakeholders including the Farming Unions to develop standards which will be fit for purpose, deliver demonstrable welfare outcomes and ultimately deliver to our customer expectations.”