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Free-range Eggs on Public Sector Menu Urged

by 5m Editor
10 November 2009, at 11:10a.m.

UK - Wearside MP Chris Mullin likes his eggs free-range – and he wants to see Sunderland's schools, council offices, hospitals and other public sector organisations forced to serve them up the same.

Speaking in Parliament, the Sunderland South MP said there should be a law requiring the public sector to buy only food which promoted improved standards of animal welfare.

In his speech to fellow MPs, he said: "My purpose is to call on the Government to introduce legislation that will prohibit the public sector from buying eggs produced by caged hens and encourage the purchase of eggs produced to higher animal welfare standards – progressing on a sliding scale from barn eggs to free-range to organic."

In recent years, celebrity chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall and Jamie Oliver have been among those campaigning for better treatment of farmed animals.

Mr Mullin has also been a strong opponent of battery farming and wants to see an end to eggs produced by caged hens, according to Sunderland Echo.

"Caged eggs are produced from hens in cramped, tiered cages with sloping mesh floors," he said.

"Each hen within the cage has less equivalent living space of 550 square centimetres, less than an A4 piece of paper.

"Barn eggs, free range and organic eggs are reared to a considerably higher standard of animal welfare from hens that have access to litter and to the nest site of their choice and can flap their wings, exercise and have the opportunity to explore their environment."

Mr Mullin criticised a number of previous attempts to improve the quality of food in the public sector.

"Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been wasted on these failed initiatives," he said.

"The £40million spent on a Better Hospital Food initiative in 2001, for example, which introduced new menus for hospital food devised by celebrity chef Lloyd Grossman, did not achieve a step change in the nutritional quality of hospital food.

"The Government's success in revolutionising school food was achieved because legislation was passed to introduce mandatory nutritional guidelines, monitored by the School Food Trust."

Mr Mullin said there had been a huge increase in consumer awareness of "appalling animal welfare" standards and nearly half of all eggs sold in UK supermarkets were from high welfare systems.

He added that intenstive farming had already been linked to virulent forms of flu, such as swine flu from pigs and avian flu from farmed chickens.