Suppliers respond to egg industry investigation

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Glenrath Farms, The Happy Egg Co and Bumble Hole Foods respond to Animal Justice Project's recent investigation. Image: Getty
Glenrath Farms, The Happy Egg Co and Bumble Hole Foods respond to Animal Justice Project's recent investigation. Image: Getty

Related tags Agriculture

Suppliers implicated in a recent undercover investigation that claimed to have found sick, dying and dead hens in RSPCA assured farms have hit out at the accusations levelled at their businesses.

Campaigners from the Animal Justice Project (AJP) entered a number of farms supplying major supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda and Marks & Spencer between December 2023 and February 2024.

The group claimed to have found distressed and diseased birds in all the farms they visited, scenes of run-down and neglected facilities, and ‘numerous deceased hens’ scattered around sheds.

Producers named by the campaign group included Glenrath Farms, The Happy Egg Co and Home Farm (a supplier to Bumble Hole Foods).

Egg investigation

Sean Barrs, Animal Justice Project campaigner, said: “Today's modern egg industry in Britain unveils a heartbreaking truth: sick, dying, and live hanging egg-laying hens, crammed by the thousands into huge, factory-style sheds designed for maximum production.

“Our investigation shines light on the 'high welfare' myths. We hope it will help consumers see beyond the glossy egg packaging so that they can choose more ethical, plant-based foods in their diet.”

Ian Campbell, managing director of Glenrath Farms, told Food Manufacture ​had already contacted the police to report the break-in to their farm and that independent auditors from the RSPCA, BEIC and the National Farmers Union had already visited the farm in response to AJP’s claims – all of which found no signs of low standards.

Responding to claims that central nesting areas had been blocked off, Campbell explained this was common practice throughout the industry. The entrances to nesting areas are closed electronically during the night to prevent chickens from sitting on eggs.

‘Know what you’re talking about’

“If you you’re going to criticise how we work, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about,”​ said Campbell.

A spokesperson for The Happy Egg Co said the care and wellbeing of its hens was a top priority and that its agriculture team runs a ‘robust’ schedule of regular farm visits and spot checks from third parties to ensure welfare standards are met.

“As soon as we were shown this footage featuring one of our farms, we launched an immediate review,”​ the spokesperson added. “Our team assessed the farm, and both the RSPCA and BEIC have since carried out independent and unannounced assessments, where the farm was found to be fully compliant with industry regulations and best practices.

“The RSPCA had previously visited the farm only two weeks prior and has found no cause for concern at either visit.”

Bumble Hole Foods said that previous audits of egg supplier Home Farm did not raise significant concerns, but the footage from the AJP had prompted the company to take action.

Temporary suspension

“Consequently, we have decided to temporarily suspend the procurement of eggs from Home Farm for M&S products until we are confident that all identified issues have been appropriately addressed," ​a spokesperson for Bumble Hole Foods said.

“Our plan includes conducting a comprehensive re-audit of the farm, both internally and through the BEIC Lion certification process. The resumption of our procurement relationship with Home Farm will depend on their ability to demonstrate adherence to our stringent welfare standards.”

Meanwhile, British consumers have called for an end to the culling of male chicks in the egg processing industry​and clearer labelling on whether eggs come from a cull-free producer.

In a survey of 2,000 Brits by food tech firm In Ovo, two thirds of respondents believed there should be laws in place to stop the culling of male chicks on the day they’re born, while more than three quarters said boxes should be clearly labelled to show whether eggs have come from a chick-culling process or not.

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