Eggs are a staple requirement in most household kitchens and, just like our customers, we rely on a supply of high quality free range eggs to help us produce a variety of the products you see in store – from mayonnaise to cakes and cookies.
We have been long-term supporters of the free range egg industry and in 1997 were the first UK retailer to switch to supplying 100 per cent free range whole eggs. Despite some scepticism within the industry about the practicality of doing so, we then extended this policy in 2002 to include all eggs used as ingredients in our prepared food.
But, just as consumer concerns about the welfare of laying hens haven’t gone away, neither has our drive and commitment to sourcing the best quality, welfare friendly eggs.
By working closely with our egg suppliers, we continue to develop new ways to meet the challenges that remain in the egg sector, including animal health and food safety. By working together we hope to ensure a long-term, sustainable egg supply now and into the future.
One key way to meet the current and future challenges is by trialling new ideas that could improve not only the performance, but also the health and welfare, of laying birds on farm. These include changes to shed design, composition of litter, different stocking densities and types of enrichment for birds to enjoy. In doing so, we provide birds with the opportunity to display their natural characteristics and habits.
We continue to take our farm auditing very seriously and all our fresh eggs are produced on specially selected and audited farms in Britain and Northern Ireland. These farms are audited by selected staff amongst our egg suppliers, specially trained by M&S to our Select Farm Assurance standards.
As well as our suppliers’ farms, we also carry out regular auditing of egg packing facilities to make sure that eggs are labelled and packaged correctly; ensuring the best traceability and providing reassurance to customers that the eggs they demand – free range – are the eggs that they are getting.
Over the last six months we have also begun transitioning our supply of liquid/processed egg to a Select Farm auditing model to further improve the traceability and production standards in our egg supply chain.
Our supply chain for processed eggs is more complicated than that of whole egg because, whilst most egg comes from farms in the UK, we also take liquid egg produced in Holland and Denmark. To help ensure consistent chicken welfare and traceability standards, we have invested in training auditing staff from all these suppliers to ensure that our processed egg producers are meeting the production standards that have always been in place for fresh, whole eggs. We are also auditing at the packing and processing stage.
Whilst the humble egg is often taken for granted as a staple on our supermarket shelves, we take our duty to maintaining a sustainable, traceable, welfare friendly supply of free range eggs very seriously.
We have come a long way since our first commitment to free range in 1997 and we continue to enjoy the challenge of helping our producers meet the demands of the egg sector, and our customers.
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