EGGS from battery hens will be banned from dozens of Merseyside schools, care homes and canteens.
The move to free range eggs, which will affect all kitchens in council- owned buildings in Wirral, will cost taxpayers £5,000.
But council bosses believe the move is worth every penny if it means schoolchildren, elderly people and town hall workers are fed “cruelty-free” food.
Wirral council has become one of the first in the country to bow to pressure from TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
The pair have spent the past week on Channel 4 highlighting the way chickens are treated before their meat and eggs end up on people’s plates.
Council leader Steve Foulkes backed the idea, which was approved by councillors on Thursday, despite it costing more than using eggs from battery hens.
He said: “TV campaigns have highlighted the issue and I think the majority of people in Wirral will back us on this.
“Because of European regulations, the battery system for eggs is set to end in 2012 so we are going to pre- empt that and act now.
“In negotiating our next morning foods contract, we had already found a £25,000 saving on the previous one. This decision reduced that saving to £20,000, so effectively cost us £5,000.
“I am old enough to remember ‘going to work on an egg’, so it is good to be able to offer the same in a cruelty- free way at schools and canteens across Wirral.”
The council’s decision today won praise from animal welfare campaigners.
Annabel Davies, from the Compassion In World Farming group, said: “This is a fantastic move by Wirral council.
“We have been running a campaign for our supporters to petition their local authorities to go cage-free and it is great this council has been so quick off the mark.
“For children in schools, it will not only send an important message about cruelty, but will be healthier for them.”
“While it is a small financial commitment to go free range, you cannot put a price on the misery of a hen that lives for a year, unable to move in a space the size of a piece of A4 paper.”