Morrisons has become the first supermarket to launch carbon neutral eggs under its own brand by cutting emissions linked to soya and feeding hens insect protein.
The retailer launched the new range under the term ‘planet friendly eggs’ as part of its commitment to be directly supplied by ‘zero emissions’ British farms by 2030.
It claims that the hens supplying for the range will be fed a soya free diet with the birds instead fed insects which are produced using waste from its bakery, fruit and vegetable sites.
The eggs will cost £1.50 per pack of six and will only make up a very small proportion of Morrisons eggs.
Initially they will be available in 50 stores in Yorkshire and a new lower impact environmental store in Little Clacton, Essex, however Morrisons say they will rollout the range nationally in 2023.
This will help them compete with the carbon neutral eggs offered by rival supermarket Sainsbury’s under the brand ‘Respectful’ where the hens are fed on beans rather than insects.
Sophie Throup, head of agriculture at Morrisons said: “This is our first carbon neutral product and there will be many more to come.
"We know our customers consider the environmental impact of the food they eat and want affordable, zero emission produce.
"Eggs are a regular weekly purchase for most households and so we’re thrilled that after 18 months of hard work with our farmers these eggs are finally hitting our shelves.”
The insects will be produced in insect ‘mini farms’ which have been developed by Cambridge based startup Better Origin. The larvae are grown in on farm containers and are fed using Morrisons food waste.
The whole insect farming setup is completely automated and controlled remotely by Better Origin, the producer’s role is to feed in the food waste and take out the larvae when they are ready.
Fotis Fotiadis, CEO & Founder at Better Origin said: “We are thrilled to see Morrisons introduce a carbon neutral product, powered by our technology, to the public.
"The current food supply chain isn’t sustainable in the long term and while it is certainly effective, it’s coming at a cost to the environment.
"Our ambition at Better Origin is to change that by creating a more sustainable circular food chain, so to finally see the first carbon neutral product from Morrisons hit the shelves is testament to the incredible work of the Morrisons team involved.”
A report by the University of Cambridge which looked at a wide range of different factors including care of the hens and production of the eggs confirmed that the product is carbon neutral.
Whilst Morrisons launch is a step towards net zero, insects are still a long way from being a viable, mainstream protein source for producers.
Martin Humphrey, from Humphrey Feeds and Pullets, applauded Morrisons for the launch, but said it was a first step on a long journey.
"In the long term there is a place for insect protein, but at the present, there are many challenges preventing it from becoming a viable option for producers.
"The option Morrisons are utilising, supplements their soya free feed with a quantity of live insects. The use of processed insect meal in animal feed is currently not legal in this country and as a result feed mills are not in a position to process insects until this legislative barrier changes.”
Speaking to the BBC’s Farming Today programme, Sophie Throup explained that whilst the journey to net zero is challenging, it is a journey Morrisons are strongly committed to.
“We understand that it is only a small proportion of our eggs that are going to be produced in this way but we have to start somewhere and the journey to being completely carbon neutral is challenging.
"We want to build trust with our farmers and customers who tell us they want to buy products like these. It is a long way off until all of our products can be produced in this way but being able to offer this range is a very important step.”
The ‘Planet Friendly Eggs’ are also set to be the first to feature a green version of the usually red British Lion stamp on its eggs.