Egg rules change in response to bird flu outbreaks

Posted: 11 January 2024 | | No comments yet

Eggs will no longer need to be labelled as barn eggs during mandatory housing measures in plans announced by Defra.


Eggs will no longer need to be re-labelled in the event of a Bird Flu outbreak after an announcement from the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs this week.

Currently, when mandatory housing measures are introduced, eggs from free-range birds may continue to be labelled as ‘free-range’ for 16 as per Egg Marketing Standards Regulations. After that period, these eggs must then be labelled as barn eggs.

The new plans (which apply to England and Scotland only) will mean producers can continue to label eggs as ‘free range’ throughout mandatory housing measure to “support British farmers”, Defra claims.

“The proposals aim to cut unnecessary red tape and costs for British producers while also strengthening supply chains and helping deliver the Government’s commitment to continue to produce at least 60 percent of the food we eat in the UK.

“Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 is now a global threat and the scale of outbreaks in recent years across the UK and Europe have been unprecedented, with more than 360 cases confirmed across Great Britain since late October 2021,” the department said.

Major outbreaks of avian influenza have occurred in the UK in both 2022 and 2023, causing significant disruption to the egg sector.

Second case of avian influenza confirmed in Anglesey

“With the vast majority of eggs produced in the UK meeting free-range standards, the sector is very important to both British consumers and farmers,” said Gary Ford, Chief Executive of the British Egg Industry Council.

“BEIC has been calling for an amendment to the egg marketing legislation to ensure that our free-range egg farmers can remain competitive and continue to provide British consumers with free-range eggs. This has become increasingly important due to the unprecedented levels of Avian influenza in recent years. The changes are essential to ensure a long-term future for British free-range eggs, which we know consumers want, and we strongly support the consultation”.

“We understand the pressures bird flu outbreaks place on our poultry and egg producers, which is why we continue to prioritise ways to support the industry during outbreaks of this disease,” added Farming Minister Mark Spencer.

“I encourage all those with an interest to take part in this consultation to ensure that our free-range industry continues to thrive in years to come.”

The proposals announced are however subject to an eight week consultation period. 

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