For anyone who keeps a close eye on the U.K. egg market, the name may sound familiar. Respectful eggs were originally marketed as low carbon, rather than carbon neutral, when first launched over a decade ago. Introduced by the merged Stonegate Farmers and Deans Foods, the brand, despite being award winning, was dropped when the two companies demerged.
Now, in the run up the COP26 Climate Change Summit, free-range and organic specialists Stonegate Farmers has brought the brand back, updated and with enhanced environmental credentials.
Respectful eggs are produced using a number of practices and policies that, the company says, embrace the natural environment rather putting a strain on it.
Stonegate says that, critically, no soya is used in the hens’ feed, as soya is the biggest carbon contributor in egg production and a key factor in deforestation. It adds that, while Respectful eggs immunize carbon emissions as much as possible, it is nevertheless supporting independently verified and monitored carbon off-set projects focused on forest protection in South America.
Soya in the hens’ diets has been replaced with field beans, grown on Respectful farms and milled on-site to reduce the food miles required to feed hens.
The field beans are drilled, meaning that soils are not ploughed. This, as well as resulting in fewer tractor movements so reducing fuel use, reduces soil compaction, allowing soil microbes to thrive rather than being exposed to UV light - all beneficial to soil health.
Stonegate uses a breed of white hen that, it says, is significantly more productive than standard brown hens, that live 40% longer, and consume less feed, all contributing to a lower environmental impact.
Farms and the company’s packing center use renewable energy from Stonegate’s own solar array, as well as procured wind energy, and the brand’s carbon footprint has been independently verified.
There can be no denying that consumers are now much more concerned about the future of the planet, but will they put their money where their mouths are?
It has been a while since I have stepped into a Sainsbury’s store but a check of the company website reveals that a pack of six Woodland branded eggs, the company’s own free range brand, retails for GBP0.90 (US$1.20). A box of six Respectful eggs sells for GBP1.99!
However, the product may do very well with those consumers that are prepared to make a commitment. Their somewhat serious packing displays all of the eggs’ credentials, such as being GMO-free, deforestation free and even it even features an outline map of South America. There is not a happy hen or bucolic country scene in sight on this packaging - this brand would appear to have been developed for consumers who really understand what they are buying.