Free range eggs return to supermarket shelves for first time in five months as hens are allowed outside again after bird flu outbreak
- Hens have been kept inside for some six months amid concerns over the disease
- Products in shops have had to be marked as ‘barn eggs’ instead in recent weeks
- But ministers have now scrapped the restrictions, much to the industry’s relief
Free range eggs will today return to supermarket shelves after hens were finally given the green light to go outside again after a five-month-long bird flu outbreak.
In recent weeks, the products have had stickers or labels marking them as ‘barn eggs’ as birds have had to be housed inside.
But from today, shoppers will once again be able to pick up free range eggs – which come from hens with unlimited outdoor access in the daytime – after ministers scrapped the restrictions.
In recent weeks, the products have had stickers or labels marking them as ‘barn eggs’ as birds have had to be housed inside
But from today, shoppers will once again be able to pick up free range eggs – which come from hens with unlimited outdoor access in the daytime – after ministers scrapped the restrictions
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs introduced the measures in late November following an outbreak of avian flu.
The Food Standards Agency advises that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for consumers, and it has not changed its advice on the consumption of poultry products.
The risk of bird flu has been reduced from ‘high’ to ‘medium’ for premises with poor biosecurity while further requirements brought in to protect flocks from the outbreak – including cleansing and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles and limiting access to non-essential people on sites – will remain in force for the next few weeks, Defra said.
In a joint statement, the four chief veterinary officers said: ‘Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe.
‘It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets, who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter, that we are in a position to take this action.
‘However, the recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.’
The British Free Range Egg Producers Association welcomed the news, but said egg producers were still at breaking point because of soaring costs of production.
BFREPA CEO Robert Gooch said: ‘It’s really good news that shoppers will soon have free range eggs available on the shelves, and British farmers are extremely grateful to consumers for continuing to buy eggs from these flocks even though they have been re-classified as barn eggs.
‘But while it’s a relief to my members, lifting the housing order does not solve the crisis facing the egg sector. It will not remove the huge hikes in energy, transport, feed and labour costs they are experiencing.
‘The picture is bleak – a recent survey of our members suggested 51% of free range and organic egg farmers were considering exiting the industry. Even a small number coming out of egg production would lead to egg shortages which we predict will come later this year.’
Poultry farmer Llyr Jones told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme this morning he was spending an extra £400 on feed – a 40% increase on his normal costs – as a result of increasing pressures.
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