Free range eggs will NOT be available in UK shops from next week | UK | News

Since November, birds have not been allowed to roam freely outside due to fears of the bird flu virus spreading. With Britain’s free-range chickens moved indoors as a precautionary measure, any eggs on sale will have to reflect the fact they were not laid outdoors.

Supermarkets, shops and suppliers will now have to label such eggs “barn eggs” – displaying the fact clearly on the packaging.

The term barn eggs commonly refer to eggs laid in an indoor environment.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The 16-week grace period we allowed for free-range eggs has now been exceeded, and eggs must now be marketed as ‘barn eggs’.

“We have worked closely with the sector and retailers to implement these changes as smoothly as possible.”

The British Retail Consortium said supermarkets would be providing signage to explain the change to consumers, but “when the current measures are lifted, eggs will go back to being free-range”.

Aimee Mahony, the National Farmers’ Union’s chief poultry adviser, said: “Shoppers may notice different labels on egg packs explaining 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.”

Last winter, Britain was hit by what the Government are calling the “largest-ever outbreak of avian flu”.

More than 80 cases of the virus were reported in England alone.

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According to Government guidance: “When avian influenza is confirmed or suspected in poultry or other captive birds, disease control zones are put in place around the infected premises to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Within these zones, a range of restrictions on the movement of poultry and material associated with their keeping can apply.”

Highlighting the cases, the Government confirmed “85 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in England”.

A statement said: “There were also two cases of avian influenza in Wales where a small area of ​​the disease control zones around the premises extended into England.

“One of these zones is still in place and one has been revoked.

“In addition, there were two cases of avian influenza in Scotland where a small area of ​​the surveillance zone surrounding each case extended into England, both of these zones have been revoked.”

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As a result, birds reared for meat and eggs have been ordered by the Government to be kept indoors since November – to reduce the risk of outbreaks.

The length of time they have been kept indoors means their eggs can now no longer be labeled free-range.

Farmers had hoped the Government would lift the order, but after new avian flu outbreaks in the past week, officials have decided to keep the order in place.

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Suffolk-based egg producer Daniel Brown, who keeps more than 40,000 free-range hens, said his birds had coped well indoors so far.

Speaking to The Guardian he said: “We’ve given them extra things in the shed-like hay and grit to give them things to peck at and keep them amused.”

Mr Brown said avian flu outbreaks usually drop off as the weather warms, so he hopes the latest order will be lifted soon.

He added: “A chicken won’t be bothered about not going outside in December and January, but when it’s nice in May they’ll want to be out late into the evening,”

Britain has not been alone in suffering the consequences of the virus.

Reports have been recorded across Europe, with France now trialling an avian flu vaccine on birds.

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