Posted 24 November 2012
By Harper Adams Forum Reporter, Greg Parkes
Andrew Joret, Group Technical Director at Noble Foods and Chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, visited the Harper Adams Forum on November 22 and discussed ‘Eggs cracked open – lifting the lid on a successful industry’.
China is the top consumer of eggs worldwide while the UK currently consumes 189 eggs per person, per year. Consumer fear about cholesterol and Salmonella depressed consumption to a low of 170 eggs in 2000.
A total of 47% of eggs are used in retail, while the rest are used in food service and for processing. And 75% of eggs retailed are sold through supermarkets, with retail being the most valuable sector to the egg industry.
Mr Joret highlighted the virtual 50:50 split of birds between colony cages (48%) and free range systems (45.8%). Consumers do not fully appreciate the barn system concept. The Forum was told that typically a colony farm would house 500,000 birds while a free range unit would hold 250,000.
Over 50% of eggs sold through retail outlets are produced via free range systems, while colony cage produced eggs are popular in processing and food service.
Mr Joret said that in 1999 an EU directive was issued to remove conventional battery cages by January 1, 2012. This directive cost the UK poultry industry approximately £400 million, a country which produces approximately 10% of the whole European output. By the end of 2012 it is estimated there will be 20 million issues of non-compliance within the EU. It was forecast that the population of hens in enriched colony cages will stand at approximately 139 million, with 83.5 million birds remaining in conventional cages illegally.
Germany complied earlier than many other countries, with its government setting a deadline for abolition of conventional cages a few years earlier than the whole EU deadline. The biggest non compliers were estimated to be Spain, Italy, France and Poland.
Mr Joret pointed out that Italy is more or less self-sufficient with few eggs entering or leaving the country.
Edwina Currie, then the junior health minister, stated in 1988 that Salmonella was present in a significant number of eggs produced in the UK. Salmonella then became a ‘visible bug’ and sales were affected for approximately 10 years.
Mr Joret explained to the Forum the importance of the Lion Mark in restoring faith in British eggs. An industry standard launched in 1998, it ensured there was industry wide vaccination against Salmonella, full traceability throughout the supply chain, feed controls and a best before date on all egg shells. It ensured all products marketed met all EU Salmonella control guidelines. Mrs Currie now fully supports the Lion Egg scheme.
Mr Joret highlighted the nutritional value of eggs, stating they are high in vitamin D and selenium and low in saturated fat, fats and cholesterol. Eggs are now healthier than they used to be.
Mr Joret finished by highlighting that the UK has a well invested-in poultry industry, a strong Lion scheme, which supports the market, and brands which help make the industry successful. He said targets should include expansion of free range systems to support market growth and to displace cage imports by producing our own colony eggs.