Free Range Eggs
Free range eggs disappearing from stockists as new labelling rules come into force to reflect the 16 week lockdown from bird flu.
As of February 1st, 2021, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has rolled out new labelling requirements for eggs originating from free range flocks. Under this ruling, eggs from free-range hens in the east of England, including Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex, will be marked as barn eggs while their avians are forced to remain undercover due to the bird flu outbreak.
To account for the 16-week grace period afforded to farmers and manufacturers across England, the enforcement of these regulations will be phased in, with the rest of England following suit on February 27th. Even amidst a challenging season for poultry producers everywhere and the implications set forth by this update to egg labelling laws, safety considerations and closely monitored practices must continue to take precedence to protect both animal welfare and public health.
In the last two years, the United Kingdom has endured its most extensive avian influenza outbreak, with more than 300 confirmed cases since late October 2021 - 270 of which have been in England. This crisis has caused issues to arise in supply chains, and retailers nationwide have faced ad-hoc egg shortages.
To try to counteract this, DEFRA has issued a ‘packaging concession’ to UK producers, permitting them to ‘over sticker’ egg boxes to mark them as ‘barn reared’ for identified customer insight. This decision has been made to demonstrate to consumers that the eggs purchased have come from hens kept in barns whilst helping to address the elevated prices stemming from additional packaging costs that the struggling sector would have had to contend with.
In addition, the eggs must be stamped with a barn production stamp (2UK) rather than the free range (1UK). DEFRA has clarified that these codes should not be mixed and matched on the same egg. The current switch will be in place until the poultry can freely roam again.