Several of the UK's leading supermarket chains have come under fire from the animal protection group the RSPCA for failing to ban eggs produced by intensively farmed battery hens.

Asda, Safeway and Sainsbury were particularly criticised by the RSPCA, while Marks and Spencer, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols were praised by the charity for their free-range produce. Marks and Spencer was singled out as the most free-range friendly because it only sells eggs from non-battery hens. The RSPCA warned that many stores use battery eggs in their ready meals and recipes for cakes and sauces.

The RSPCA wants a ban on all types of cages for egg-laying hens by 2007. A recent survey suggested that nearly 80% of the British public want a ban on battery cages as a priority, reported BBC Online.

Tesco did only marginally better than Asda, Safeway and Sainsbury in the so-called egg leagues, while in the fastfood sector Kentucky Fried Chicken was praised for using free-range eggs in its batter. McDonald's and Pizza Express both have free-range policies.