Egg labelling changed as avian influenza strikes hen farming community

Eggs from major supermarkets across the UK are no longer able to state that they are free range. They will instead be marked as “barn eggs.”

An outbreak of the largest ever avian influenza the country has ever experienced led the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) putting birds under housing order.

Due to the birds having been kept inside barns for more than 16 weeks, they can no longer be classed as “free range” – birds that were allowed to roam outside during daylight hours.

Signs will be put in supermarkets from 21st March to inform shoppers of the change. Free-range labelling will only be allowed to return when hens are once again, permitted to go outside.

Case numbers of the H5N1 strain of bird flu began rising in November 2021. The virus – which is highly contagious and can destroy poultry flocks – was first discovered in North Yorkshire.

In the UK, there are four legal categories for eggs; free range, organic, caged and barn.

For eggs to be termed ‘free range,’ hens must have continuous daytime access to runs.

Organic hens must be fed an organic diet and reared on organic land, with six hens per square meter.

The National Farmers’ Union’s chief poultry adviser, Aimee Mahony, said: “Shoppers may notice different labels on egg packs explaining that the eggs have been laid by hens temporarily housed to protect their health and welfare.

“Once the risk levels have reduced and the housing measures have been lifted by Defra, birds will be able to go outside again.”

You can download a notice to inform customers of the temporary changes by clicking here.

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