Free-range eggs unavailable in UK supermarkets

Customers will no be able to purchase free-range eggs in supermarkets across the UK from today (21 March) as British hens have spent the last four months indoors due to fears of avian flu outbreaks.

Eggs sold in stores will be labelled “barn eggs”, the name given to eggs produced by birds permanently housed indoors.

Over the winter period, the UK was hit by the “largest-ever outbreak of avian flu” with more than 80 confirmed outbreaks across the country and deaths of thousands of birds.

To stop the disease from spreading, birds reared for meat and eggs have been ordered by the UK government to be kept indoors.

Under EU law, free-range laying hens can be kept indoors for up to 16 weeks for their legs to still be labelled free-range. However, that period has come to an end.

READ MORE: Nisa switches to free-range eggs

“The 16-week grace period we allowed for free-range eggs has now been exceeded, and eggs must now be marketed as ‘barn eggs’,” a spokesman from Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told The Guardian.

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

The National Farmers’ Union chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony added: “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.”

Talking to Grocery Gazette, Tesco and Asda said they are “following Defra guidance” regarding not selling free-range eggs and labelled all its egg cartons ‘barn eggs’.

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