Free-Range Eggs Taken Off UK Shelves

Supermarkets must add the new labels on many egg boxes starting Monday

© Shutterstock

free-range-eggs

Supermarkets must add the new labels on many egg boxes starting Monday

© Shutterstock

The largest outbreak of avian flu

The UK was hit by the “largest ever outbreak of avian flu” last winter, with nearly 90 reported cases in England. Government officials ordered farmers to keep birds reared for meat and eggs indoors since November to avoid the bird flu outbreak, and so from today, their eggs cannot be labelled free-range.

According to the law, eggs cannot be described as free-range if hens are kept inhouse for more than 16 weeks. Supermarkets, therefore, must add the new labels on egg boxes, changing the term “free-range eggs” to “barn eggs”. It means many stores, which have policies to only sell free-range eggs such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrisons, will have to sell barn eggs for the first time in years.

The National Farmers’ Union’s chief poultry adviser, Aimee Mahony, told The Guardian: “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.”

Barn versus free-range eggs?

In the UK there are four official categories of egg production: free-range, organic, cage and barn. The biggest difference is that in the free-range system, the hens have access to the outdoors through "popholes", but the bird flu restrictions have put a stop to this.

Free-range eggs accounted for 75% of all eggs sold in UK stores in 2021, according to data firm Kantar.

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