Lidl has today announced it will phase out the sale of eggs from caged hens from 2025.
The retailer has said this is of its 'continued commitment to responsible and sustainable sourcing.'
In the meantime, Lidl has said it will 'work closely' with its egg suppliers to ensure that the pledge will have 'no detrimental effect' on their businesses.
Lidl said in a press statement: "This latest initiative is designed to continue to put both improving animal welfare and nurturing strong and secure relationships with its valuable partners at the heart of its supply chain.
"Lidl continues to source its products as locally as possible, working closely with the National Farmers Union to engage as sustainably as possible with British farmers, while maintaining strict animal welfare standards."
Ryan McDonnell, commercial director at Lidl UK said: "As a responsible retailer, we are committed to ensuring that the highest standards are met and maintained across our supply chain.
"Our pledge to work closely with our UK suppliers to phase out the sale of shell eggs from caged hens also underlines our understanding of our customers’ changing expectations, as shoppers increasingly search for responsibly sourced high quality British produce at the best price."
'Year of caged hen farming ban'
This year seen a number of high-profile retailers and supermarkets decide to end the sale of caged eggs.
A schoolgirl who petitioned Tesco to stop the sale of caged hen eggs earlier this year, with success, has now won over Morrisons.
14-year-old Lucy Gavaghan, the petition creator said: "2016 will be the year that a total ban on caged hen farming will be closer than it has ever been.
"Now, I will concentrate this petition on Asda, the last of the big four supermarkets to take notice of what their customers want.
"Please continue to share the petition and I will work as hard as I can to apply the pressure which is proven to work, on Asda."
Last week, Sodexo, the world’s leading Quality of Life services company with operations in 80 countries, has joined the growing number of companies that have also committed to sourcing only cage-free eggs in their global supply chains, including Unilever, Grupo Bimbo and Nestlé.
Clear product labeling
Clear product labeling will be crucial as more retailers announce that they will stop selling eggs from enriched colony cage systems, the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) says.
Barn egg production, which has no cages but sees birds housed permanently, is likely to fill the gap left by reduced demand for caged eggs.
Nearly two-thirds of shoppers already choose to buy free range eggs but BFREPA CEO Robert Gooch said that it must be clear to shoppers what they are buying.
"Labelling a dozen eggs as ‘cage free’ is not good enough because many shoppers will assume that means free range," Mr Gooch said.
"A great deal of thought needs to go in to how these eggs are marketed to the public in a way that accurately reflects how they have been produced.”"
Mr Gooch added that it was important that eggs remain affordable.
"Free range eggs have always attracted a small premium which reflects the additional production costs involved, but not everyone can afford to pay that price.
"Eggs should be available to everyone and it is down to shoppers to make a decision on which production system they prefer.
"We recognise that the announcement from these major retailers and food service companies reflects the desire from the British public to move away from caged systems and we will be working hard to ensure that the interests of free range producers and consumers are not compromised."
Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming, says: "Just two weeks ago I congratulated Tesco on their decision to go cage-free and expressed the hope that it would be the catalyst for others to follow.
"With Lidl, Morrisons, Iceland, Aldi and Sodexo all pledging to go cage-free this week it would seem that the cage-free movement in the UK has developed serious traction and continues to gain momentum."
"Of course, whilst the timelines are longer than we would like we at Compassion very much welcome these pledges.
"We have worked to influence and educate food companies on animal welfare for decades, and we will continue to work with these retailers to ensure the production system changes required to go cage-free will offer the hens a good quality of life in rich and stimulating environments."
Mia Fernyhough, a hen welfare specialist for the RSPCA, said: "It is fantastic news that Tesco, Iceland and now Morrisons are all committed to going cage-free.
"We hope they will not only stop selling packs of eggs from caged hens but they will also stop using them as ingredients in own-brand products like cakes, quiches and fresh pasta.
"Sadly around half of the eggs laid in the UK are still from birds kept in cages, provided with little more usable space than an A4 sheet of paper per hen.
"It’s time cages were consigned to the history books and we hope that the last few supermarkets still selling eggs from caged hens follow suit."