The RSPCA has lifted a suspension imposed on a Powys farm over its welfare food scheme after a campaign group's claims about its treatment of free-range chickens.

Images and claims were published by the Animal Justice Project about Sherriff’s Woodland Eggs near Newtown, alongside two others in the UK.

Following work across three farms between September 2023 and January this year - with the Newtown site understood to have been seen once - the claims led to the RSPCA suspending the company from its RSPCA Assured scheme, which certifies animal welfare standards in food, while it carried out its own probe.

But the RSPCA has now said it has lifted that suspension on the Powys farm, while investigations continue into the other two farms targeted, both of which are in England. Sherriff's Woodland Eggs will be subject to two unannounced follow-up inspections by the RSPCA.

The farm is a free range egg producer, housing 21,500 hens, and supplies the company Stonegate, a free range egg wholesale business.

Stonegate also confirmed it had suspended the farm from its own supply chain, and says it asked it to refer itself to Powys County Council. The council said it had not yet received a referral from the farm.

Footage provided by the Animal Justice Project to the County Times shows hens in crowded conditions with several dead birds - the footage is understood to have come from the three farms looked at.

“This footage is understandably upsetting and we quickly suspended all three farms whilst we urgently launched an investigation," the RSPCA said in a statement.

“This included unannounced physical inspections of all of the farms by specially-trained RSPCA Assured assessors, and a detailed analysis of the footage by our experts to identify each of the farms featured and any breaches of the RSPCA welfare standards.

“Following our investigation, we have lifted the suspension of one of the farms as we are satisfied that they have fully addressed any welfare issues shown in the footage. However, we will be working closely with them to provide additional support and advice to help them continue meeting the RSPCA’s strict welfare standards.

"They will also be subject to at least two unannounced visits within the next 12 months to ensure that the RSPCA’s standards continue to be met.

“A second farm, which featured only briefly in the footage, had no birds on the farm when we visited. We will therefore carry out an unannounced visit once it has been re-stocked with hens. The third farm is still under investigation and as such we are unable to comment further at this time.

“Sadly, from time to time things can go wrong on farms but one case of poor welfare is still one too many, which is why we have taken these allegations very seriously. However, welfare concerns on RSPCA Assured certified farms are very rare, and many millions more farm animals are having a better life thanks to the work of the charity and its dedicated members.

“We would ask anyone with concerns about an animal on an RSPCA Assured certified farm to always report it immediately, so that we can act swiftly. Any delay in reporting concerns means there is a significant risk of an animal being left to suffer unnecessarily.”


A spokesperson for Stonegate said: “The care and welfare of our flocks are of the utmost importance to us, and we take allegations of mistreatment of birds very seriously.

"On receiving the footage, we immediately suspended the farm in question pending both our own investigation and the reports of qualified independent veterinarians.

"We also insisted that the farm refer the matter to their local authority.

"The site was audited by an RSPCA auditor during an unannounced inspection, and separately the British Industry Egg Council have also carried out an audit.

"We will wait for the collective findings of the respective reports before taking the necessary corrective actions.”

The British Free Range Eggs Producers Association (BFREPA) confirmed it will be waiting on the results of the investigation before making further decisions.

County Times:

A spokesperson for BFREPA said: “UK free range and organic egg farms work to the very highest standards of hen welfare and are subject to a rigorous auditing schedule by numerous food safety and animal welfare certification bodies.

“After reviewing the footage, RSPCA Assured has suspended the farms involved pending further investigation. BFREPA awaits the outcome of this investigation and will not be commenting further until that work has been completed.”

The County Times has approached the farm for comment but has yet to receive a reply. 

Ayrton Cooper, Campaigns Manager at Animal Justice Project, said: "The welfare of animals at Sherriff’s Wood Eggs is a matter of great concern."