MAY 12, 2008: Poultry farmers are not able to meet the growing demand forfree-range eggs because of over-strict RSPCA standards on stockingdensity, according to industry experts.

Despite EU law recommending a maximum stocking density of 2,500 birds per hectare for free-range laying hens, the RSPCA Freedom Food regulation (adhered to by UK supermarkets) ensures that all UK free-range laying hens are stocked at no more than 1,000 birds per hectare.Chief poultry adviser for the NFU, Robert Newbery, said the extra burden on UK poultry farmers, compared to the EU, was preventing farmers from expanding production to meet growing demand and encouraging imports.Mr Newbery said the NFU was in talks with the RSPCA over increasing the stocking density to 2,000 birds per hectare to allow British farmers to meet public demand for free range eggs.Alice Clark, an RSPCA farm animal scientist, said the group would listen to all new evidence.

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