A council has been left with egg on its face after serving up chicken products from non free range hens to school children.

Less than 1% of eggs purchased by Brighton and Hove City Council or its catering contractors over the last year were free range.

The chicken and eggs have been used in some of the city's schools, care homes and council staff canteens.

This is despite the council's Animal Welfare Charter stating that it 'will take full account, where appropriate, of animal welfare issues in its day-to-day operations and in its decision making process... in relation to its role as a purchaser of food'.

Green councillor Paul Steedman said the council’s policies were not up to scratch.

He added: "I'm appalled the council is serving up chicken and eggs that aren't free range.

“The birds will most likely have been kept in horrific, cramped conditions, with less floor space than an A4 piece of paper to move around in.

“Many of them will never have seen natural light or set foot outside their cages and because they are forced to squat for long periods of time in their own droppings, will have lots of painful blisters on their breasts, feet and legs.”

There have been several high profile campaigns calling on supermarkets and consumers to buy only free range or cage-free chicken and eggs.

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver, who has just opened a restaurant in Black Lion Street, Brighton, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and actress Joanna Lumley are just two of the celebrities backing Chicken Out, a campaign to improve poultry welfare.

Coun Steedman said: "Other councils, leading companies like Microsoft and even McDonalds have all committed to using only cage-free eggs in their catering.

“While Brighton and Hove council is set to move towards using only these kinds of eggs in primary school food by the end of the year, they're not going nearly far enough.”

Liberal democrat councillor Paul Elgood said: “The council should be setting an example and I would have thought using free range eggs would be pretty standard.”

A council spokesman said: “The Council recognises that it has a responsibility to use its buying power in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

“In the new school contract we will comply with the Soil Association's Food for Life bronze standard and in negotiating the staff and civic contracts we will ask potential suppliers to consider certain selection criteria which will include the use of eggs from cage free hens.”