Morrisons will reduce the use of soya feed at 10 of its free range egg farms as it works towards becoming the first supermarket to launch own brand carbon neutral eggs in 2022.
New Better Origin insect ‘mini farms’ will be introduced onto the UK egg farms to feed the hens, who will also receive a supplementary diet of British beans, peas and sunflower seeds. The ‘mini farm’ containers, in which millions of insects are kept, will provide nutrient rich and natural food for the hens.
The insects will be fed on waste from Morrisons own fruit and veg site in Yorkshire – creating one of the UK’s first ‘circular waste’ feeding schemes within the same company to produce food. Over 30 tonnes of fruit and veg waste will be recycled each week.
Soya currently accounts for 10-20% of hens’ normal diets. Up to 70% of the emissions from the UK’s supply chain is attributed to feed, of which soya is a major contributor. Reducing soya and feeding insects food waste on these 10 farms alone is expected to save 56 hectares of South American land from deforestation every year, where half of the world’s soybean is currently farmed. It will also reduce CO² emissions by 5,737 tonnes and save 40 billion litres of water annually.
Morrisons expects the first carbon neutral eggs to arrive on its shelves in 2022. This will be followed by carbon neutral options for fruit, vegetables and meat in the coming years as a result of its commitment to be supplied only by net zero British farms by 2030.
The insect units have been developed by agritech company Better Origin. Each container can help feed 32,000 free range hens and will receive three tonnes of waste from Morrisons fruit and vegetable site each week. The insects can grow to 5,000 times their initial body mass in less than 14 days. Collectively the 10 containers will feed 320,000 free range hens who lay millions of eggs a year.
Insects are a natural part of birds’ ancestral diets and wild birds seek out insects as they forage. Studies by Better Origin and the Universities of Bristol and Turin have found that insect feed improves bird health and welfare. The insects are nutritious and rich in essential amino acids and healthy fats. They have no impact on the quality, taste or shelf life of the hens’ eggs.
Sophie Throup, Head of Agriculture at Morrisons, said: “Reducing soya from livestock feed is one of the key challenges for farms needing to lower their carbon footprint and we wanted to help find a solution. An insect diet could suit our hens better – they seem to enjoy it – and the nutritional and added health benefits are notable. We’re also finding a good home for our fruit and veg waste. We think that this could be part of the future of egg farming.”
Fotis Fotiadis, CEO and Founder of Better Origin, said: “We are delighted to be working with Morrisons to decarbonise their food supply chain and reduce soya reliance. Our vision is for the initial rollout to scale across all Morrisons egg farms which would reduce 40,180 tonnes of CO²-eq per year. Achieving Net Zero is a massive challenge that needs collaboration and determination, and we hope this is the year that more food providers and producers take meaningful action.”
Morrisons has embarked on a programme to be completely supplied by net zero carbon British farms by 2030, five years ahead of the market. Over the next nine years, Morrisons is working with its 3,000 farmers and growers to produce affordable ‘net zero’ carbon meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables. As part of the programme, Morrisons will also work with universities, farming and countryside organisations and carbon experts.