A report from market researcher Mintel has revealed strong growth in the sale of free-range, barn and organic eggs in the UK, at the expense of eggs mass-produced from battery hens.

According to the report Eggs in the UK, some 2.04bn free-range, barn and organic eggs were bought last year, 24% up from 1.64bn in 2002. Sales of free-range eggs have risen by 31% since 2002, the report adds.

While battery or laying cage eggs still represent around 59% of the market, volume sales of these categories fell by 8% from 3.19bn to 2.93bn between 2002 and 2005.

“The widespread uptake of ethically-positioned eggs by both retailers and consumers is testament to the emotive nature of this particular market,” said Mintel’s senior market analyst Claire Birks. “People are becoming increasingly concerned about the way animals are reared and more aware of how environment can impact on the flavour of the food.”

Last year, the total egg market in the UK reached GBP514m (US$979m), and Mintel forecasts it will reach GBP526m this year, representing 28% growth since 2001.