Animal welfare campaigners say shoppers should switch to small eggs

Animal welfare campaigners say Britain’s shoppers should switch to smaller eggs for their breakfasts – because producing big ones is too painful for the hens

  • British Hen Welfare Trust is appealing to consumers to switch to smaller eggs 
  • More than half of eggs laid by commercial laying farms are large or extra large
  • But research shows this is causing health issues, including prolapsing, for hens
  • Hen keepers also told of squawking that increases in decibels the larger the egg 

Animal welfare campaigners said yesterday that Britain’s shoppers should switch to small eggs for breakfast – because producing big ones is too painful for hens. 

The Devon-based British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) is appealing to consumers to switch their ‘big is best’ buying habit to small, medium or mixed weight eggs to help the birds.

More than half the number of eggs laid by commercial laying farms are large or extra large, but research shows that the production is causing increasing health problems for hens, with ‘prolapsing not uncommon’.

The charity also urged shoppers to buy smaller eggs so that hens can produce them naturally and without interference from genetic modification.

Hen keepers have even told of ‘considerable squawking’ from hens which increases in decibels the larger the egg, according to the trust.

More than half the number of eggs laid by commercial laying farms are large or extra large, but research shows that the production is causing increasing health problems for hens (file photo)

Jane Howorth, founder of the trust, said: ‘The BHWT asks consumers to buy small, medium or mixed weight eggs to help hens – you’ll get more yolk for your money if you do, and the farmers and the hens will thank you.’

The BHWT pointed out that hen welfare is being compromised due to the health problems for birds that lay large eggs, saying that this is something with which the egg industry itself agrees.

Recently invited to give a talk to the prestigious Guild of Food Writers, Ms Howorth took the opportunity to encourage influential food writers and chefs to switch their thinking on egg size when writing recipes. 

The demand for bigger eggs has resulted in medium and small eggs being downgraded for use in the processed food sector, meaning the yolks are not best utilised, the farmer loses out financially as they have less value and the hen has a more demanding daily task of laying a larger egg.    

Ms Howorth continued: ‘We have some of the best poultry welfare in the world, and it’s only right to collaborate where we can on issues that impact both farmers and hens alike. And one such issue is the size of egg a hen lays.

‘Size matters, at least when it comes to eggs. Consumers may be aware of what being free range means to a hen, but now is the time to give consumers the power to help hens further by simply switching their thinking on egg size.

The Devon-based British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) is appealing to consumers to switch their ‘big is best’ buying habit to small, medium or mixed weight eggs to help the birds (file photo)

‘Over half the eggs laid by commercial laying farms are large or extra-large and these whoppers cause birds increasing welfare issues, with prolapsing not uncommon. 

‘Mixed weight eggs are currently sold by a handful of supermarkets, but generally shopping habits remain stuck in the outdated ‘big is best’ mindset. Everyone’s a winner if we simply change our thinking. 

‘Small or mixed weight eggs provide consumers with a bigger yolk to white ratio (surely most of us agree the yolk is the best bit?), farmers get a fairer price for each egg laid regardless of size and most of all it takes the pressure of our hardworking hens and allows them to do what comes naturally without interference from genetic modification.’   

The BHWT was established in 2005 and now has 44 volunteer-led teams across the country that have helped over 810,000 hens become family pets. 

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