Eggs from non-caged hens now make up the majority of UK egg sales by volume, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel. In the 12 months ending March 22, 2010, 52.6% of eggs sold were from non-caged hens, compared with 47.3% the previous year.

This change came despite a recessionary economy and the fact that free range, barn and organic eggs are more expensive than eggs from caged hens, animal advocacy group Compassion in World Farming noted in a press release. In monetary value, eggs from non-caged hens made up 66.4% of all egg purchases during the measurement period. That’s 4.2 percentage points higher than in the previous year.

Data provided by Kantar Worldpanel reveal that sales of free range eggs have risen to 56.8% of the value of the market from 52.3% in the previous year, making up 44.2% of the market by volume (up from 40.6%). Barn eggs, traditionally a small proportion of the market, have seen growth to 5.6% of the market by value (up from 4.7%), 6.4% by volume (up from 4.0%).

“The latest figures should encourage major supermarkets and others in the food industry to continue working towards higher welfare standards,” said Steve McIvor, director of food business at Compassion in World Farming. “There is a great opportunity for both farmers and retailers to make the most of growing consumer demand for higher welfare chicken and eggs.”