It is painful for the hen to lay a larger egg, says a leading British farmer. People would do better eating a breakfast of two medium-sized eggs.
In the UK, there is little consumer demand for small eggs, which weigh less than 53g and are mostly used in processed food, while prices for very large eggs have decreased slightly in the recent past. Still the price level for the larger eggs could be considered attractive.
Tom Vesey, chairman of the British Free Range Producers' Association, says that farmers produce large eggs only because they receive more for them from supermarkets.
He suggests that farmers will make more profit from producing medium eggs because there will be fewer breakages. The volume of the egg shell is the same on a medium as on a large or very large egg. Thin shells mean more cracked eggs, he told The Times.
Vesey thinks by changing the protein element of poultry feed it is possible for farmers to slow down the process of egg production so that hens can lay smaller eggs.
Alan Pearson, spokesman for the British Poultry Veterinary Association, reacted angrily to Vassey's contentions, saying, "Frankly I think there are bigger welfare issues that people have in their minds, such as hens in cages. The size of an egg rarely causes problems for the bird."
But animal welfare experts seem to concur with Mr.Vesey. Phil Brooke, of Compassion in World Farming, said: "Selectively breeding hens for high productivity, whether larger eggs or larger numbers of eggs, can cause a range of problems such as osteoporosis, bone breakage and prolapse. We need to breed and feed hens so that they can produce eggs without risk to their health or welfare."
Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, said: "There is no strong published evidence of pain in egg-laying hens but it's not unreasonable to think there may be a mismatch in the size of birds and the eggs they produce. We do often spot bloodstains on large eggs. As a personal decision I would never buy jumbo eggs."