Free-range eggs are being sold with new free-range egg stickers explaining that birds have been housed temporarily for their welfare. This is as a result of the bio-security measures implemented across the UK for the birds’ welfare.
Avian Flu has been spreading across Europe and arrived in Britain in December. A number of outbreaks have been found in flocks across the UK and Wales. DEFRA have issued a notice to all poultry-based producers across the UK in December 2016 stipulating that they house their foul to reduce the risk of transmission. The notice is also applicable to so-called “backyard” flocks too.
Under EU regulations, in order to label eggs as free-range, chickens must be able to roam freely outside with access to vegetation and at no less than 4 square metres per bird. Whether free-range eggs taste better or not than barn or caged reared chicken eggs is subjective but there is no doubt from a humane point of view, free-range is the kindest and most natural way for commercial producers to care for their flocks. Many producers choose to rear their foul this way not only for the potential premium they can charge but also the satisfaction in providing good husbandry for their flocks.
Under EU regulations, hens, ducks, geese or other species used for eggs or meat production may only be labelled as free-range if they have not been housed for longer than 12 weeks consecutively. The EU has been lobbied by a number of interested groups and associations within the industry and the supply chain to ease the regulations (known as derogation) given the specific circumstances.
Unfortunately, Mark Williams of the British Egg Industry Council has complained about the Commissions intransigence in the situation. Officials seem unable to relax the rules given the special circumstances surrounding the housing of otherwise free-range birds. It is expected that birds that are kept housed for more than 12 weeks will have to have their eggs labelled as barn reared.
There is an expectation that flocks will be allowed to be released outside again from 28th February 2017 but subject to strict biosecurity measures including netting and other measures to ensure they cannot come into contact with wild birds.
Positive ID Labelling is offering free-range egg stickers in compliance with the regulations to be placed on eggs sold to consumers still marked as free-range despite being housed in barns. You can order free-range egg stickers (and applicators) from our sister company Danro or call us on 01332 864895 or Danro on 01332 865933.