Britain’s biggest egg producer has promised to pay farmers more in a bid to increase supplies of UK wheat for feeding organic hens. To plaudits from a government keen to reduce “food miles,” Deans Foods, which produces over 40 million shell eggs a week, aims to raise the proportion of UK wheat used to 50% over five years.

Wheat makes up 60% of a hen’s diet. Deans’s conventional hens are all fed on UK-produced wheat, but the shortage of organic wheat makes it necessary to import feed wheat to make up the rations, Deans’s Agricultural Director Andrew Joret told a press conference in London. “This is the rub. 90% of it is imported,” he said.

To keep a flock of 430,000 organic hens going, Deans needs 12,000 tonnes of organic cereal. Under the new scheme, farmers will get £5 (US$8.10) a tonne more than the market price from Deans, Joret told Local supplies would make it easier to ensure the integrity of the organic supply chain.

Environment minister Michael Meacher welcomed the Deans move. “It is an example that I hope is going to be followed. By others in the sourcing of inputs,” he said. “It’s a win, win, win situation.”