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Farming

Asda and Lidl make cage-free chicken pledge

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Hens: A momentous moment

Hens: A momentous moment

TWO MORE supermarkets have pledged to stop sourcing eggs from caged hens by 2025. On Friday (Jul 29), Asda and Lidl announced that they will phase out cage eggs within the next nine years, echoing commitments announced in recent weeks from Tesco, Morrisons and French catering giant, Sodexo.

Asda has come under particular pressure, since its US parent company, Walmart, made the pledge for its North American stores.

On Friday, Ryan McDonnell, Commercial Director at Lidl UK, commented: “As a responsible retailer, we are committed to ensuring that the highest standards are met and maintained across our supply chain. Our pledge to work closely with our UK suppliers to phase out the sale of shell eggs from caged hens also underlines our understanding of our customers’ changing expectations, as shoppers increasingly search for responsibly sourced high-quality British produce at the best price.”

Reacting to the retailers’ animal welfare commitments earlier in the week, the NFU said that supermarkets must give their egg suppliers more clarity on timelines and – importantly – what will replace current production systems. Tesco said in its announcement that eggs from barn systems or free range will replace its caged eggs. NFU said the decision on the part of retailers ‘will force the egg industry into its biggest change since the introduction of the enriched cage system in 2012; a move which then cost farmers in excess of £400m’.

However, The Co-operative stopped selling caged eggs in 2008, Sainsbury’s stopped selling them in 2009, and stopped using them as ingredients in its products in 2012 (Lidl’s pledge only covers shell eggs on sale in its stores).

In a statement announcing the switch, Lidl said it will work closely with all its egg suppliers to ensure that its pledge will have no detrimental effect on their businesses, noting that the supermarket already supported British egg producers to make a significant investment to transition to enriched caged systems in 2012.

15 million birds are housed in cages in the UK, supplying an estimated 40% of eggs sold in supermarkets.

Commenting on the announcements, Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, which has been campaigning on caged eggs with partners in the United States, said: “Today marks a truly momentous moment for egg laying hens. Asda and Lidl have joined the Cage Free retailers. We have been working alongside Asda and Lidl; advising on the benefits of going cage free on their whole shell egg supplies.

“These announcements are further proof that we are moving ever closer to a cage free future for egg laying hens. I am delighted to say that a cage free day is dawning.”

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Farming

2019 ‘a step into the unknown’

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IN HIS New Year Message Kevin Roberts, chair of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has said that never has a year brought such uncertainty, due to the ongoing political deadlock over Brexit.

Mr Roberts emphasised that the red meat industry, which brings £200m a year in export income for Wales and boasts the world-renowned PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef brands, was one of the sectors with most to lose.

WTO Tariffs, which are likely to be levied in the absence of a deal, are 5-10% on many types of goods but on fresh red meat, they range from 40-80%. Independent studies have also identified the sheep sector, which is heavily dependent on exports of its premium-quality produce, as particularly vulnerable to a disruption in European trade.

HCC Chair Kevin Roberts said, “Throughout the past year, I’ve said time and again that the future is fundamentally bright for our industry. We have top-quality produce, brands which are recognised throughout the world, extremely dedicated producers and an industry which pulls in the same direction in promoting high standards in meat quality, welfare and sustainability.

“However, as 2019 dawns we find ourselves standing on a cliff edge,” he said. “Independent reports project a fall of 30% or more in farm-gate prices if there’s a chaotic Brexit, and farmers need certainty in order to invest and continue to develop their businesses.

“HCC is working with Government and others to put contingency plans in place as far as we can,” added Mr Roberts, “but the uncertainty and the range of potential outcomes are so great – just three months before the exit date – that the complexity involved is immense.

“Our industry’s New Year wish is simple; to be able to trade freely and fairly and have some certainty for the future.”

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Farming

NSA hits back at vegan campaign

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THE ARRIVAL of a new year is often a time of optimism, of making plans for the year ahead, but increasingly for livestock farmers, January is now the time producers find themselves arguing a torrent of false claims of crimes against animal welfare, the environment and human health that the media are so quick to promote as part of ‘Veganuary’.

And this year, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is ready to fight back against what it says is ‘a misguided and misleading campaign’.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “Make no doubt about it, behind the positive messages about Veganuary lies a well-coordinated campaign against livestock farming. Our concern is that our unique grass-based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics.

“We are seeing criticisms from welfare campaigners, rewilders, climate change campaigners, and health campaigners – but all these are connected and ignore the fact that UK sheep farming works very much in harmony with our environment, our landscapes, and our human ecology – creating a countryside the majority of the public love and producing a food product that is healthy and nutritious within a balanced diet.

“The climate change arguments that have been buoyed by the recent Paris Climate Change Summit ignore the fact that red meat from livestock that is part of a grass-based system is different from that raised in feedlots and in intensive situations. Even more misleading is that the carbon footprinting tools we use do not take account of whole life cycles and ignore the role of grasslands and grazing animals in storing carbon and organic matter in our soils and even in the wool they produce. I would go as far to suggest that ‘organic greenhouse gas cycling’ from grazed livestock should be treated separately from gas emissions derived from fossil fuels.”

NSA says the UK should be seeking to maintain or even increase sheep numbers here in the UK, related to market demand, but further encourage the distribution into areas that are devoid of livestock in order to provide the multi-functional outcomes that people are interested in today.

Mr Stocker concludes: “In the UK sheep are a form of positive and regenerative agriculture which keep our uplands and permanent pastures in good condition and improve our cropping lands in terms of soil quality and the ecological benefits of a return to mixed farming.

“Some people seem hell-bent on portraying sheep as a global enemy, but in fact, they are the ultimate in renewable technology and are an efficient form of productive land management that is planet friendly.”

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Farming

Sheep and goat inventory

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NFU CYMRU is reminding farmers that the 2019 Annual Sheep and Goat Inventory forms must be returned by February 1.

The form is a legal requirement and must be returned by no later than Friday, February 1, to avoid an increased risk of being selected for an inspection. The form should include the number of sheep and goats of which the farmer is the registered keeper, by CPH location, on January 1, 2019. Farmers must also record the number of sheep and goats on January 1 in their on-farm flock record to avoid a potential cross-compliance penalty.

Sheep and goat keepers have the option of completing the form online via www.eidcymru.org. However, keepers must have registered to EIDCymru prior to submitting the online inventory return. If you are completing the form electronically, you do not need to return the paper form

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