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Eggs Lose Free-Range Status

Millions of eggs sold in the UK will temporarily lose their free-range status following measures to prevent the spread of bird flu. Since December poultry has had to be kept indoors due to Government orders. But under European Union Rules, the eggs of birds which have been housed for more than 12 weeks cannot be marketed as free-range.

Protection for Hens

The emergency measures introduced to curb the spread of avian flu are now being scaled back but some framers are opting to keep their birds inside to protect them due to the ongoing risk of infection. This will mean that their eggs no longer qualify as free-range. In order to prevent confusion, the industry has decided to use new labels on free-range cartons which state "laid by hens temporarily housed in barns for their welfare". These are starting to appear in shops.

What is a Free Range Chicken?

There are four different types of eggs sold in the UK: organic, free-range, barn-reared, and caged.
Hens laying free-range eggs must have had unlimited daytime access to fenced areas with vegetation and at least 4 square metres of outside space per bird.

The farmers would love to let their poultry back outside now but must balance the improvement in lifestyle with the risk of avian flu. An outbreak could lead to an entire flock being destroyed. The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has taken the step of labelling all commercial boxes of free-range eggs, whether the hens are in or out, in order to create a level playing field for all poultry farmers.

Reduced Risk

It is hoped that normality will be restored by the end of April and in the meantime, prices will stay the same. Farmers are working hard to maintain a good quality of life for their birds and are providing distractions to prevent them from becoming bored. These include straw bales, footballs and plastic bottles for the birds to peck at. More birds should be moved outside again in the near future as the risk of infection will be reduced as migrating birds leave the UK for the summer.

If you keep poultry, you will have been affected by the measures to contain avian flu. Have you now moved your birds outside again? Let us know.


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