SAINSBURY’S has been caught on the back foot after a farmer in its supply chain claimed the supermarket planned to switch to 100% free range egg by 2020.

Paul Conway, a producer for Skea Eggs that supplies Sainsbury’s told the news site Agriland that the supermarket would stop stocking barn eggs by the end of March next year.

He said the announcement had come as “a total bolt from the blue” explaining that free-range conversion was not feasible for his site and that he had outstanding finance on one of his buildings.

But Sainsbury’s said it had not confirmed the move to 100% free range – only that it “recently made some updates to our supply base”.

“We are working closely with our suppliers to ensure a smooth transition and supporting them in any way we can,” added the short statement.

The Ulster Farmers Union said it was seeking “urgent clarity” from the retailer over the matter, as was the British Free Range Egg Producers Association.