Traditionally, British consumers have favoured brown eggs in their weekly shop. White eggs make up approximately 1% of total production in the UK and are predominantly used by the food service sector, including fast food restaurants. Despite some misconceptions that white eggs are of lower quality, other than the colour of the shell, there are very few differences between a brown and white egg that consumers would notice.
While most retailers have sold almost 100% brown eggs since the 1980s, in more recent times, the unprecedented demand for egg as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has led some retailers to stock white eggs on shelf alongside the usual brown offering. This move was of benefit to UK white egg producers at a critical time, as their main outlets closed overnight due to lockdown restrictions, which meant egg producers were left looking for an alternative market.
Tesco was one of the first retailers to begin stocking white eggs on shelf back in May 2020. Following positive consumer feedback, the supermarket, in collaboration with Noble Foods, has placed a flock of white egg laying Lohmann LSL birds into one of the three tiers in their new state-of-the-art barn unit in the Midlands. This unit was completed last year as part of Tesco’s commitment to becoming cage-free by 2025.
Day-old chicks were placed onto Noble Food’s new multi-tier rearing system at the beginning of November 2020 and the pullets were moved to the laying farm at the end of February 2021.
Noble Foods Agriculture Director for Company Farms and Retail Jean-Paul Michalski said: “We’ve had experience of white birds over the years and already have a number of flocks on the ground in free-range production to further expand the journey with Tesco and their customers to introduce more white eggs onto retail shelves.”
The product offered is a mixed pack of white and brown eggs, with a ratio of 30% white and 70% brown. The packs were launched at the Tesco stores that are serviced by the Peterborough depot and have been available from 10 April 2021.
Healthy, sustainable and affordable
“This will be a great opportunity to understand how white birds compare to brown in new modern barn systems. Already it’s clear to see how well the bird is adapted to use the multi-tier aviary systems with high levels of activity, reduced feed consumption and very good egg recovery,” said Tesco’s Agricultural Manager for Poultry and Eggs John Kirkpatrick. “We feel this proposition helps us to continue to deliver healthy, sustainable and affordable products for our Tesco customers.”
NFU National Poultry Board Chair Thomas Wornham said: “We have seen white egg used within the food service sector for some time. During the period of the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen customers and retailers accept white egg at shelf-edge.
“We will be interested to see how the market for white egg progresses and what opportunities this might provide for egg producers. I know that many of our members are keen to explore the benefits the white bird has to offer, but it is important the supply chain works collaboratively in order to position white egg favourably in front of the consumer.”