Free range eggs are set to appear on supermarket shelves from today after a major outbreak of bird flu forced UK farmers to keep all of their chickens indoors.
Shoppers can once again buy eggs from chickens with free full-term access after lockdown measures were eased to control what the government described as the UK’s largest outbreak of bird flu to date.
Free range eggs have not been available since March 21 due to rules introduced in November that require farmers to raise birds for meat production indoors to prevent spread.
“This year we are seeing the largest outbreak of bird flu in the UK,” the environment minister, George Eustice, told Parliament this month.
Over the past six weeks, eggs sold in stores have carried labels indicating that they are barn eggs and not free-range eggs.
There are four official types of egg production in the UK: organic, free range, barn and caged.
Free range eggs come from birds that can graze freely during the day and are kept in sheds at night, and coop eggs come from chickens that are not allowed to roam.
Organic eggs almost always come from free range farming, in addition, laying hens are fed organic food and live in small flocks on organic land.
Cage eggs come from caged birds in much smaller spaces – usually 13 to 14 chickens per square meter – with few facilities available that allow them to perform normal behaviors such as dust bathing and scratching.
Laws banning the confinement of commercially bred laying hens could soon be introduced after Conservative Representative Henry Smith introduced a private member’s bill to ban the “cruel” practice.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda have listed free domain eggs again on their websites after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs lifted indoor housing regulations.
Other measures must be maintained, including increased cleaning to protect the flocks, officials said, and stressed the importance of “careful biosecurity.”
In a joint statement to the farmers, the four UK veterinary officials said: “While the lifting of mandatory breeding measures would be welcome news for bird breeders, conscious biosecurity remains the most important form of defense to protect birds.
“Thanks to the hard work of all the bird breeders and veterinarians who have done their part in keeping the flocks safe this winter, we can take action.
“However, recent cases of bird flu show that it is more important than ever that bird keepers watch for signs of disease and adhere to strict biosecurity standards.”
The Food Standards Agency has stated that bird flu also poses a very low food safety risk to UK consumers and that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
“Alcohol buff. Troublemaker. Introvert. Student. Social media lover. Web ninja. Bacon fan. Reader.”