In order to retain their own “organic” classification, egg producers in four of Germany’s leading egg-producing states starting in April 2017 will be required to source only replacement pullets that have been produced under full organic conditions.
The states of Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have agreed and set out new regulations that close an existing loophole, which allows producers of organic eggs to obtain their young hens from any breeder. From April next year, the pullets will also have to be produced according to organic standards, including lower stocking density, access to an outdoor area and organic feed.
“Where it says “organic,” organic criteria must be met,” commented Christian Meyer, Agriculture Ministry of Lower Saxony. “This belongs to honesty towards consumers.”
Organic egg demand climbing
Strong local demand has supported booming production of organic eggs in Lower Saxony so that almost 50 percent of the organic eggs produced in Germany come from that state. An increase of 15 percent in the number of organic hens there between 2014 and 2015 pushed their number over the 2-million-mark, and the proportion of organic and free-range birds in Lower Saxony to more than 1 in 2 for the first time.
The agreement between the four states will close the loophole in the EU Regulation over the organic status of replacement pullets, which was intended to be a temporary exemption in cases where supplies of organic-certified replacement birds were inadequate had become the norm, according to Meyer. The requirements for additional space, a range area and organic feed increase the costs of production for the organic sector, pushing up the price per bird by around EUR1.50 (US$1.68).
Meyer added that the acceptance of chicks from conventionally-reared breeders in organic flocks, providing they had received organic feed from 3 days of age, has created unfair competition between EU member states as well as disadvantaging organic pullet producers.
By April 2017, the minister said there will be sufficient organic breeders in Germany for the current exemption no longer to be required.
“Furthermore, consumers expect organic eggs to come from hens that are organically reared,” Meyer added.
According to a recent forecast, overall poultry meat and egg production and consumption in Germany will continue to rise in future, but more slowly than in recent years. Producers there are facing pressure from those calling for higher welfare standards as well as competition from Brazil, Thailand and other EU countries.