Tesco, which currently sells about 600 million caged eggs a year, will source all its eggs from other systems by 2025.
Tesco has announced it is to stop sourcing eggs from caged hens by 2025, following a detailed review of its egg sourcing strategy, including consultation with suppliers, industry experts and other key stakeholders.
The Tesco announcement follows a similar commitment by Aldi to phase out caged eggs by 2025, made earlier this year.
But, with Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, selling approximately 600 million caged eggs eggs per year in the UK, the move will have a big impact on the egg sector, particulalry if other retailers follow.
Tesco is currently the UK’s largest retailer of free range eggs with 57 per cent of Eggs sold in the UK from free range or organic producers. But 43 per cent of its 1.4 billion eggs still come from caged systems.
Traditional cages are now banned in the EU, with farmers now required to use 'enriched cages' for egg production.
Working with supplier partners, Tesco will move to 100 per cent cage-free eggs by sourcing eggs from a mixture of barn, free range and organic systems.
Matt Simister, Tesco’s commercial director for fresh food said the decision was one of a number of Tesco initiatives 'designed to ensure sustainable sourcing, and improve animal welfare'.
He said: “We carried out an extensive and collaborative review with our suppliers and key industry experts to help us work through how best we can move to 100 per cent cage-free eggs.
"This will ensure we give our supplier partners the certainty they require, to make the significant and necessary investments needed for the new farming systems.”
Veli Moluluo, managing director of Noble Foods, Tesco’s largest supplier of eggs, said: “We have already started investigating new methods of egg production, and the commitment from Tesco to move away from enriched colony production in a manageable timeframe gives us the confidence and ability to invest for the long term”.
Tesco recently launched its Fair For Farmers Guarantee for fresh milk which demonstrates how every own label pint of milk helps support British dairy farmers.
Tesco said it has also introduced guaranteed high value contracts for British potato growers, and sustainable farming programmes for lamb farmers and producers of cheese.
The NFU has expressed concern about the wider impact this will have on the egg sector.
NFU poultry chairman Duncan Priestner said: “We understand from various meetings we have had with Tesco that this is a reaction to changing customer demand and farmers are keen to produce food accordingly.
"We must see Tesco’s communication continue with suppliers; the transition to cage-free is going to be significant and egg producers are going to need certainty during this period of change. The NFU will continue discussions with the retailer on this.
“Although concerning for colony British cage egg producers, who adhere to high welfare standards, we appreciate that Tesco is working with producers to ensure that they are not negatively impacted by the move.
We are however concerned about the wider impact this will have on the sector and will continue to hold talks with the supply chain.
“Poultry farmers invested £400million in the transition to enriched cages for laying hens in 2012.
“We understand from meeting with Tesco that barn is likely to be the alternative to colony cage.
If it is barn then we would seek assurance on behalf of our members that we do not see an exit from that system of production only a few years down the line after significant investment on behalf of our members."