people holding pet chickens that are free range

If you buy pre-made cake, quiche, pasta, or a pie the chances are you’ll see eggs on the ingredients list. Sometimes eggs are also used in products you wouldn’t expect: as a glaze or binding agent, for instance, and occasionally even in the filtering process of red wine.

And while many of us always look for ‘free-range’ when buying eggs in boxes, the ‘hidden eggs’ within other products can often come from caged birds, without this being made clear on packaging. So, on Friday Night Feast, Jamie and Jimmy campaign to give customers clear information about where the eggs in their shopping really come from.

Where do our eggs come from?

The egg industry has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, since Jamie first started campaigning for the welfare of egg-laying hens. In 2008 (with his documentary Fowl Dinners) Jamie lifted the lid on the shocking conditions these birds lived in, with limited light and barely room to move.

Back then, battery cages were still legal, and two thirds of eggs produced in the UK came from hens in caged systems. But the public reacted strongly to Jamie’s campaign and the industry changed almost overnight.

Britain voted with its feet, and the sale of free-range eggs overtook battery eggs within a few weeks. Today, 96% of customers told The Co-Op they want to see free-range eggs in all of the food they buy.

Why are there still caged eggs?

Battery farming was banned in 2012, but a different type of cage system was introduced called colony cages – they do provide more space than battery farming, but still use cages.

Colony eggs that are used as an ingredient within other foods do not have to be declared, so many shoppers have no idea when they are eating these kind of eggs.

Jamie and Jimmy want the industry to tell people exactly where all eggs come from – so everyone can make an informed choice.

What can we do?

We want transparency from the industry. If shoppers are choosing to buy whole free-range eggs, they should be able to make the same choice when hidden eggs are used.

And crucially, if the industry gets on board, we could see some big changes. If there is larger industry and consumer demand, free-range systems will become more financially viable for farmers.

Until there’s a guaranteed market for more free-range eggs, farmers will find it hard to secure bank loans and make the investment needed to change systems. As consumers, we need to demand this change from the industry, which will then provide the market needed for farmers to use free-range systems.

Find out more about Jamie’s Friday Night Feast campaigns here.