Free-range eggs vanish from supermarket shelves

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that, now the grace period was over for free-range eggs, “eggs must now be marketed as ‘barn eggs'”.

Eggs will need to be stamped with different codes showing that they are now deemed barn eggs. Free-range egg boxes will still be allowed to be used, but another sticker or label will also need to be placed onto them to show that they are technically now barn eggs.

Supermarkets and corner shops will, meanwhile, be required to provide clear and transparent information to customers when they are selling the eggs to explain why there have been changes to farming methods and why chickens have now been kept inside.

Retailers are adding the new signs, with Sainsbury’s saying it will label the eggs either on the pack or adding a clear sticker to them, and putting notices in stores and on its website.

Booker Group, the UK’s largest wholesaler, meanwhile, emailed its customers to tell them that any eggs laid from Monday would have to be labeled as barn eggs instead of free-range, and that the Lion code on the eggs will be changed to show the eggs are now being classed as barn eggs.

Booker, which owns the Premier, Londis and Budgens brands, said customers must display clear notices “in a prominent place in your premises” to tell customers why there had been changes.

The Defra spokesman said: “We continue to provide support for the poultry sector throughout this challenging time.”

Barn eggs have typically been cheaper than free-range eggs, but it is not thought that supermarkets will change prices following the switch. Sainsbury’s, for example, is understood to be planning to keep its prices the same.

Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Council, said: “We undertook research that showed consumers want to support free-range hens and free-range farmers.

“Marking free-range packs and eggs temporarily as Barn is not only the most practical solution, but it also means consumers can continue to buy eggs from free-range hens, albeit temporarily housed, while farmers can ensure the hens are safe and well. “

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