THE RSPCA has decided against introducing a requirement for free-range egg producers in its assurance scheme to install verandas on sheds following a significant poultry sector backlash.

Serious concerns had been raised by farming unions over requiring the introduction of verandas and increased natural light provision for laying hens in revised RSPCA Assured standards announced in Autumn 2023.

See also: Layer sector expresses ‘serious and significant’ concerns over RSPCA egg farm proposals

Following several meetings, with the latest on 22 January, the RSPCA announced it would not require free-range egg producers refurbishing or building new sheds to install verandas.

But it said it would still require verandas for barn systems that are part of its assurance scheme and that windows will also become a requirement – though the deadline for their introduction was pushed back.

In a statement, the BEIC, BFREPA, NFU Scotland, UFU said: “The industry welcomes the RSPCA’s decision not to include verandas in the standards for free range egg production but also feels this should not be required for barn systems.

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“In addition, the industry strongly feels that joint practical farm case studies, based on UK conditions, should be conducted to better understand how increasing natural daylight will benefit bird welfare in free-range systems, particularly given the natural light variations between the north and south of the UK, before this standard is implemented.

“It was also pointed out that, fundamentally, natural daylight is already provided both to the birds and in the shed, during daylight hours, when the pop holes in free range systems are open.”