HUNDREDS OF thousands of British consumers have been told to end their 'obsession' with buying large eggs and shop for mixed weight and medium instead, in order to support hen welfare.

More than 13 billion eggs are eaten in Britain every year, but research has revealed that shoppers prefer to buy large or very large eggs rather than medium or mixed weight boxes, despite the fact hens naturally lay a range of egg sizes.

A free range hen will typically lay 55% large or very large eggs and 45% medium, smalls and second quality eggs.

A new collaboration between the British Hen Welfare Trust and the British Free Range Egg Producers Association is now trying to explain to consumers that hens naturally lay a range of sizes throughout their life and shoppers have the chance to support what hens do naturally.

Founder of BHWT, Jane Howorth, said: “Eating a range of egg sizes is an easy way for consumers to support the best possible welfare for hens. There are more than 40 million laying hens across Britain who will thank you for it," she continued. "Lots of factors can affect the size of egg a hen lays, including the hen’s age, how big it is, the breed, what it eats – even the weather. If shoppers only want large eggs then those hens are being asked to work harder, rather than just allowing them to do what comes naturally.”

BFREPA CEO, Robert Gooch, explained that free range eggs are a staple of British diets but shoppers have become obsessed with getting the biggest they can, which he claims has been exacerbated when recipes stipulate a large egg.

“We’ve been campaigning for consumers to buy a range of egg sizes for more than two years and have found that consumer habits change instantly when they understand why it is important to hen welfare,” he said.

Medium eggs are just as nutritious and tasty as large or very large eggs but a lack of demand sees them used primarily in processed food such as sandwich fillings, cakes and sauces. This has led to an oversupply in medium eggs and is reflected in the price producers are being paid at farmgate. BREPA claims that the main difference between a medium and large egg is in the amount of white, adding that the yolk size is broadly the same.

The Guild of Food Writers and other major consumer magazines have pledged to change the way they stipulate egg sizes in their recipes to encourage better consumer buying behaviours.

Ms Howorth added: “In speaking to the Guild, a highly influential flock of foodies, this could have a significant impact on how recipes are written in the future. In turn, that change in recipes will help laying hens everywhere. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us all to impact welfare with no more than a simple switch in our shopping behaviour.”

The campaign will run through the autumn and winter and is fronted by free range egg farmer Susie Macmillan and her 18,000 organic free range hens. In a video created by BFREPA, she explains to consumers how hens lay and why they should change their shopping habits. You can watch the video here -

Susie Macmillan explains egg sizes