EGG sector leaders have written to the RSPCA to express concerns about new standards to be introduced by RSPCA Assured for its laying hen farmer members.

The new requirements, announced in early November, have been met with bewilderment by senior poultry sector figures, who say they were not informed of the incoming standards.

See also: Read in detail what the RSPCA Assured standards require

RSPCA Assured said in an update to its standards verandas would be required for new and refurbished free-range layer farms from 1 May 2024. It also said a new standard would require natural daylight provision in all farms by 2030.

Poultry sector figures have told Poultry.Network that they were aware of the discussions but thought consultations were still underway.

That sentiment is reflected in a letter from both the British Egg Industry Council and Bfrepa to the RSPCA, who said the commercial layer sector had ‘significant and serious concerns’ about the new standards.

Physical and management challenges

The letter says verandas on some sites “by reason of topography or ventilation” would be physical impossible to install.

There are also concerns over bird management in sheds with windows.

The poultry sector has estimated the cost of installing verandas at £10/bird, leading to a £260m investment across the entire free-range flock. “We do not believe that the significant cost can be recovered from the marketplace, and free-range producers cannot be expected to bear this cost,” the letter adds.

‘Deep concern’

It ends by requesting an urgent meeting with senior management figures at RSPCA Assured.

“In conclusion, we are deeply concerned by these new standards and their proposed
introduction without proper industry consultation,” the letter concludes.

The lack of scientific evidence and cost-benefit analysis is also extremely disappointing and there will be significant cost implications for the free-range sector.

“This sector has been an overwhelming success for British agriculture and we wish for this to continue.”