Over 50% of eggs in the UK are produced in cages with the remainder being produced in free range or barn systems. The majority of eggs used as ingredients in products like mayonnaise, cakes and quiches are also still from hens kept in cages. During the next fifteen to twenty years, the global population will continue to rise, placing unprecedented pressures on the supply and demand for the global food system. An increase in the more affluent middle classes will further impact the dynamic as a more western diet is sought around the globe. Competition for land, water and energy will intensify, compounded by the impacts of climate change.
In recent years egg production practices have been the subject of high profile campaigns highlighting a range of welfare and environmental concerns. Concerns have been expressed with regards to the treatment of birds, use of antibiotics, energy usage, waste generation and pollution of air, soil and water. At the same time the industry faces increasing scrutiny over standards of food safety and biosecurity. Farming also faces an ever increasing social challenge due to the lack of young people willing to engage in an industry which is seen as challenging with low rewards.
We have a proud history of working with the agricultural community to provide the highest quality eggs that our customers expect while minimising our impacts. Through our Farming for the Future
programme we are working with suppliers and farmers to help them address the ethical, environmental and economic challenges they face in order to maintain a long-term sustainable and secure supply.
Commitments and targets
We want to lead the retail sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity. We recognise the integral role of animal health and welfare in sustainable food production and strive to continue progressing the highest welfare standards.
Our goal is to ensure that all our eggs are produced to the highest standards of food safety and quality by farms that are operating sustainably. This commitment applies right across our business – from our fresh products to all the eggs used as an ingredient in our prepared foods. These are global commitments and apply wherever we trade.
We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. Over the years, we’ve taken significant steps to improve the sourcing of key raw materials in our products.
Eggs are very important to M&S. We were the first UK retailer to respond directly to consumer concerns about laying hen welfare. We have a 100% free range egg policy covering both whole eggs (since 1997) and eggs used as ingredients in our prepared foods (since 2002). We also sell organic free range eggs, free range white shelled eggs, free range Omega 3 eggs and free range duck eggs.
We source in the region of 6 million eggs a week from over 200 known approved farms. We are strong supporters of the UK farming industry and try and source locally wherever possible to deliver the freshest food for our customers. However, we do source from the Republic of Ireland and Continental Europe to improve our resilience against the outbreak of notifiable diseases such as Avian Influenza.
We have been widely recognised as a leader in supporting sustainable livestock practices. We have invested in research and innovation for many years in order to develop and improve farming practices that benefit farmers and the environment.
Our approach to sourcing eggs responsibly focuses on:
Establishing and maintaining clear minimum sourcing standards
Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capacity within our supply chain
Supporting programmes which enhance the lives of people and communities
Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.
We work closely with industry experts and scientists to develop our approach to sourcing. We have a long-term partnership with FAI Farms
who provide animal welfare knowledge and direction and are responsible for managing our independent data collection and supply chain research on outcome measures. We also work closely with our suppliers to evolve our sourcing approach and standards.
We liaise regularly with centres of excellence in sustainability and engage regularly with leading NGOs, including the RSPCA
, Humane Slaughter Association
, Levy Bodies and farming unions to ensure our approach and policies are current and meaningful.