Organic certification body The Soil Association has denied it risks confusing consumers if proposals to allow egg producers to take an “organic holiday” in the face of falling sales go ahead.
It is attempting to hammer out a deal with members that would allow recession-hit egg farmers to temporarily opt out of organic egg supply to cope with consumers trading down to free-range non-organic ranges, and rising organic chicken feed prices.
The move follows claims that year-on-year sales of organic eggs have fallen by between 13% and 18%, while the cost of organic feed is almost double that of non-organic.
Under the proposals, on which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been approached, farmers could remove eggs’ organic status, while other produce from their farms would remain organic. The status could be reintroduced quickly if sales begin to rise again.
It is understood that sales of other ethical food products have not been as badly affected. The RSPCA claims that sales of its Freedom Food accredited range, which guarantees minimum animal welfare standards, are soaring after a sustained spotlight on meat production by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver (pictured) and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.
According to the charity, the major supermarket chains have boosted their supplies of Freedom Food-accredited pork ahead of Channel 4’s screening of Jamie Oliver’s pig welfare exposÈ Jamie Saves Our Bacon on Thursday (January 29).
Oliver and the RSPCA, which is currently running a “Rooting for Pigs” campaign to improve welfare and origin labelling on pork products, hope the show will produce a similar change in shopping habits sparked by a campaign on chicken last year. Over 70% of consumers say they bought chicken that had enjoyed a better life following the programme, Jamie’s Fowl Dinners.
RSPCA Freedom Food marketing controller John Akehurst says: “Supermarkets are making sure they don’t have empty shelves like ≠last time, when they were caught out by the ‘Oliver effect’.”
Akehurst says pork producers scrabbled to get the RSPCA label last summer after they learned the Oliver programme had gone into production. Sainsbury’s has launched a money-off promotion on its accredited meat ranges this week to cope with the “expected uplift” in demand for its Freedom Food pork range.