The caged hen debate
Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans visited Park Farm, near Bridgend - owned and run by Farmers' Union of Wales Glamorganshire vice chairman Phil Thomas - which has 6,000 egg-laying hens.
The purpose of her visit was to discuss the issues around EU legislation (the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive) - passed in 1999 but only introduced in January this year - banning conventional battery cages for egg laying hens in all EU countries.
"But despite having had more than 12 years to prepare for the Directive, it is being suggested nearly a quarter of EU cage egg production is from hens still in barren battery cages in 2012," said Mr Thomas.
The EC's advisory group on poultry meat and eggs was told on March 16, that there were still 12 non-compliant member states, with 49 million hens non-compliant.
The Commission was not prepared to provide details on the levels of non-compliance in each of these member states as there is a legal process currently underway which could result in referral to the European Court of Justice and fines if those member states fail to meet the July 2012 deadline for the closure of all conventional cage units on their territory.
According to written evidence submitted by the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) to the UK
Parliament's environment, food and rural affairs committee in April, the UK was fully compliant with the new legislation from February 13 2012 and all producers within the Lion Quality assurance scheme were compliant from January 1.
"Those EU member states who have taken no action have resulted in the importation of EU battery caged hen eggs into the UK leaving farmers at a financial disadvantage and unable to compete with the import of cheaper eggs into our supermarkets," Mr Thomas told Ms Evans.
"Many large manufacturers in the UK purchase egg in processed form, principally liquid or powder in order to make a wide variety of food types including cakes, quiches and mayonnaise and there is concern that liquid egg from non-compliant EU countries may be imported into the UK.
"Without the required stamp on every egg shell to state its origins, it is almost impossible to tell whether an egg in liquid form has been transported from a battery farm or free-range farm," said Mr Thomas.
"As the UK, along with other EU countries, change their farming habits it is inevitable that these additional requirements will increase costs for compliant farmers forcing them to compete against the cheaper egg products from non-compliant EU countries," Mr Thomas added.
He bought Park Farm about three years ago and its hens roam free range over 22 acres of land surrounding the barn.
Mr Thomas has one supplier, Noble Foods, who collect the eggs every Monday and Friday.
Noble brands include "happy egg" and "EGGS FOR SOLDIERS" and the company collects eggs from more than 520 locations from the Highlands of Scotland to Cornwall.
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