British sales of free range and organic chickens and eggs are surging as shoppers grow more concerned about animal welfare issues.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has revealed that purchases of chickens allowed to roam outdoors are rising at 10 times the rate of chickens mass produced in a conventional indoor environment.
Sales of free range, organic and barn eggs in Britain’s Â£3 billion-a-year poultry industry are also rising fast while sales of eggs from battery chickens are falling.
According to a report released by market analyst Mintel , sales of eggs produced by these three methods increased by 24 percent between 2002 and 2005 to two billion, with eggs from battery chickens falling by 8 percent to 2.9 billion over the same period.
Mintel believes animal welfare is the primary motivation for shoppers picking less intensively produced eggs – although battery hens still account for six out of every 10 eggs sold. “The widespread uptake of ethically positioned eggs by both retailers and consumers is testament to the emotive nature of this particular market,” said Mintel representative Claire Birks.
The government recently published a report showing conditions for Britain’s 800 million intensively raised broiler chickens remain poor, with deformities common in many quickly-fattened birds, a quarter of whose legs could not support their swollen bodies.
Some 94 percent of the 860 million broiler chickens produced in the UK every year are reared indoors. Five percent of UK chickens produced for the table are free range and 1 percent organic.
The NFU said production of free-range chickens had risen by 20 percent in the past three years while organic chicken production was up by 50 percent this year alone, compared with a rise for standard broilers of just 4 percent this year.