By Tom Woolman, poultry industry consultant
Version 8 of the Lion Code has certainly ruffled some feathers.
Some of the extra requirements, including pre housing salmonella swabs and electrical testing are causing consternation, particularly among BFREPA members.
Farmers are complaining that the new code adds less flexibility and more cost to the job of producing eggs, and they may well be right.
The egg industry is at a real crossroads, not only with the proportion of production looking to change from colony to barn over the next few years, but also in terms of how the sector is structured and governed. The BEIC transformed the industry through the 80s and 90s, but there seems to be a disconnect between the organisation and its burgeoning offspring, BFREPA.
BFREPA was set up to champion the specialist needs of the free range farmer, at a time when they were in the minority. Now the balance of production has swung heavily in their favour, with free range farmers now making up the bulk of eggs produced in this country.
This has changed the dynamics – smaller egg producers are feeling that the BEIC is out of touch and that the Lion Code is not necessarily serving them as well as it could.
Suggestions that the Lion Code is being influenced by retailers, giving away improvements in the standard of production without fair compensation to producers, are remarkably similar to the same criticisms being levelled at Red Tractor’s new ‘Greener Farms Commitment’.
Assurance schemes have been revolutionary and done a great job of raising standards, protecting our domestic market and creating brands that shoppers can buy in to.
Nevertheless, it would be fair to say both meat and egg farmers are increasingly questioning their value as every revision seems to add more layers of standards, while nothing ever seems to drop off!
I know that the BEIC’s incoming CEO Gary Ford has a strong history of representing farmers, so I hope he stands a good chance of reconnecting with producers.
Finally, can I congratulate Hannah Cargill for winning Meat Business Women’s ‘One To Watch’ prize for 2023. I know she is highly thought of by colleagues at Avara Foods and the farmers she works with, well done Hannah!