Catering with animal welfare in mind

Westbury Street Holdings has made a commitment to use only free range eggs produced by well cared for hens

Westbury Street Holdings, parent to the food service companies BaxterStorey, Caterlink and Holroyd Howe, will only be using free range eggs for the 800 sites for which it caters.

The companies, which between them currently use 7.5M eggs a year will source all eggs from a single, independent, third generation family-owned farm, Staveley's Eggs in Chorley, Lancashire.

In a break from usual industry practice, which sees contract catering companies regularly using eggs conforming only to minimum animal welfare standards, Westbury Street Holdings is making a public commitment to procure only fresh eggs that exceed current regulations for animal husbandry.

The move precedes new EU legislation that is scheduled to come into force across Europe in 2012 banning the production of eggs using chickens kept in battery cages.

And the three companies and their 9,000 strong teams are keen to ensure that all of their fresh eggs are coming from chickens that are well cared for in accordance with the RSPCA's Freedom Food standards.

This latest move follows last year's pledge to put in place a supply chain to ensure that all of the fresh meat they use - over 1M kilos a year - comes only from farms located within the UK.

According to a new report from Consumer Research Group Mintel, animal welfare tops the list of Britain's food concerns with as many as 40% of Britons worried about the issue. "More and more consumers are concerned about welfare improvements in local farming as well as the ecological and health impacts of using battery chicken cages," said Alastair Storey, Westbury Street Holdings' CEO.

"These consumers are the same people who go to work in offices and who study at schools and colleges every day.

"As the caterer we have a duty to respond to their concerns and provide them with meals that address their food choices when we are feeding them during the day and where they are not necessarily in control of the ingredients that are put in their lunch.

"We serve 25M meals a year. Sourcing our free range eggs from one farm gives the people who dine in the restaurants we manage the confidence to know that we can pinpoint the exact origins and pedigree of the food they are eating. This is a decision that we are proud to announce and it's a move that will benefit our clients, customers and the UK farming industry."

According to statistics released by Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) there are currently over 300M egg-laying hens in the EU, 26M of those are in the UK. Over half of the UK egg-laying hens are confined to barren battery cages.

Intensive battery farming leads to many hens suffering from serious ailments, including the brittle bone condition osteoporosis. This contributes to about half a millions deaths amongst hens in their cages across the EU each year.

Steve McIvor, director of food business at Compassion in World Farming, said: "It is very positive to see a commercial company which plays such an important part in feeding the UK population taking the welfare of laying hens so seriously by ensuring that the eggs they serve are free-range.
"Their move will benefit 27,000 hens per year and we hope to see other companies following from their lead."


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