The UK's largest organic sector body, the Soil Association will today (Tuesday) urge the new minister for organic food and farming, Lord Bach to support high welfare standards in organic poultry farming.

At a meeting with the minister the Soil Association will contrast the welfare expectations of organic shoppers with the government's decision last year to allow big egg and chicken producers to call their products organic even though they can be kept in flocks of as many as 9,000 birds. Soil Association organic standards set much stricter limits and insist on birds having more space inside, and being moved regularly to fresh grass, it said.

The Soil Association is presenting Lord Bach with hundreds of letters from organic consumers supporting high welfare standards and asked him to back consumers' commitment, which has driven a dramatic rise in sales of Soil Association certified eggs.

Shortages of Soil Association eggs have led one of the UK's leading egg producers, Stonegate, (suppliers to Waitrose) to call for more farmers to start producing eggs to Soil Association standards. Sales of Columbian Blacktail organic eggs at Waitrose stores are growing by almost 25%.

Sainsbury's Yorkshire stores have also seen an unprecedented rise in sales. The Yorkshire branches, which are the only stockists of Soil Association certified eggs within the chain, have seen sales jump by over 50% in the last six months.

Sales of Lloyd Maunder organic chicken, available at Sainsbury's, Somerfield and other supermarkets, have grown by up to 75% in the last year. Independent retailers, like Fresh & Wild and Planet Organic, have also seen a rise in sales of organic chicken with the Soil Association symbol.

"Organic consumers are backing high standards for chicken and eggs - we want the government to do the same," says Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association. "Flocks of 9,000 birds should not be allowed under the government's organic standards, as they are not under Soil Association standards."