Hens

image of hens
image of chickens

 All of our egg-laying hens are free range

The birds live outdoors during the day, pecking among trees that cover at least 5% of the paddock. They’re kept in houses at night, with access to perches and pecking spots.

We haven't sold eggs laid by caged hens since 2001 and in 2008, we became the first UK supermarket to sell only free range.

It's this kind of long-term commitment that wins Waitrose awards for its farming. Look out for our animal welfare marque on our own-label eggs, dairy, meat and fish.

Award-winning supermarket for animal welfare

Watch the Waitrose TV ad filmed on one of our egg farms

We set the standard in good egg farming

 

  • At Waitrose, we have our own breed of hen called the British Blacktail, an active bird who is well suited to life outdoors.

  • We stopped selling eggs from caged hens in 2001, more than 10 years ahead of a European Union ban.

  • In 2008 we became the first UK supermarket to sell only free range eggs, including those used as ingredients.

  • We're committed to higher standards of animal welfare – that's why none of our hens have their beaks trimmed. We are the only UK supermarket to guarantee this.

  • All our eggs are supplied by farms we know and trust. The birds have space to roam, shelter and dust bathe. Inside their houses, they have access to food and fresh water and areas for perching and laying eggs.

  • We’ve been recognised for our commitment to cage-free eggs by Compassion in World Farming with the Good Egg Award, which we’ve held since 2008.

  • Most of our egg boxes are made entirely from sustainable, recycled materials – as well as being fully recyclable too.

Meet the farmer

image of a hen farmer

British Blacktail hens love scratching the ground for bugs and worms

Duncan makes sure his organic free range British Blacktail hens can behave as they would in their natural habitat.

“We’re a family farming business that goes back more than 100 years, and my brothers and I are the fourth generation,” says Duncan. “I started with hens when I finished agricultural college – I’d looked at different systems, and whenever I saw organic hens, they seemed happy and contented.

“The birds have free access to the outside during the day – I wouldn’t want to spend all day in a shed, so my chickens shouldn’t have to either. They should have the chance to be chickens, and behave as they would in their natural habitat.

“Chickens are natural ground foragers, and they love scratching around for bugs and worms. If it’s rained overnight, they know, and in the morning they’ll run to find the worms that have come to the surface.

‘We’re a family farming business that goes back more than 100 years, and my brothers and I are the fourth generation‘

“It’s our job to make sure that they get outside and get lots of stimulation. You have to think like a chicken – if it’s 500 metres from the middle of the range to the shed, that’s a long run for them, so if you want them to range, you make sure there are trees and other bits of shelter in between.

“We have little tin huts too, so if it rains, they can keep dry without going back inside. We only shut them in at night for protection from foxes.

“Organic chickens have more space than in other systems, and flock sizes are smaller, so you do get to know them.

“There’s always a character or two in every shed, one that’ll come up and say hello every morning. And if I’m outside, they’ll come and check out what I’m doing, and follow me around.

“I’m absolutely certain that happy hens lay better eggs. We have an honesty box at the end of the drive where we sell ‘seconds’ – our equivalent of wonky veg – and when people taste our eggs for the first time, they can’t believe how nice they are.”

image of a blacktail hens

Flocks have room to roam, and places they can play and shelter, too

What is the Lion symbol for?

Launched in 1998, the British Lion Quality mark guarantees that eggs have been laid by British hens vaccinated against salmonella. Around 85% of UK eggs are stamped with it. All eggs sold at Waitrose carry the British Lion Quality mark.

Find out more about the eggs you buy

essential Waitrose & Partners logo

Essential Waitrose

Laid by hens reared in purpose-built houses with large windows on each side to allow natural light in, with space to wander around and play on straw bales. Free range Essential eggs are supplied by a group of trusted farmers who share our commitment to higher animal welfare standards. None of our hens, including those laying Essential eggs, have their beaks trimmed.

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No.1 Waitrose & Partners logo

No.1 Longstock Gold

Laid by hens with a third more space than the standard for free range. They are fed a four-grain diet, with maize, barley, wheat and oats, together with extracts from paprika and marigold, which give the finishing touch to the lustrous orange yolks.

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Waitrose Duchy Organic logo

Duchy Organic free range 

Our organic eggs are laid by British Blacktail hens reared to Soil Association standards. The birds are kept in smaller flocks, and have access to larger outdoor ranges than free range hens. They’re fed an organically produced diet, and the hen house has a lower stocking density than free range. Duchy hens, from day-old chicks, are fed an organic ingredient diet and the birds can go outdoors when they are 10 weeks.

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Fishing boat

Careful fish and seafood sourcing

It's all responsibly farmed and caught, which means we're preserving stocks for future generations.

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Lamb in field

How our lambs are reared

They're with their mothers on British farms until weaning and then in groups outside, feeding on grass and forage.

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Dairy cows

Dairy cows cared for by farmers we trust

We pledge that they spend a minimum of 120 days a year grazing outside, and usually it's much more.

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